Sunday, January 4, 2015

Taco Bell's New Crunchwrap Sliders!

There's a new trio of dollar menu offerings at the Bell, but are they worthy of your hard-earned Washingtons?

It's another new year, and with it comes yet another all-new assortment of limited-time only Taco Bell dollar menu products. Goodness, how time flies ... it seems like only yesterday we were all awaiting the launch of the Loaded Grillers, with breathe much bated.

So, our latest trifecta of value-priced products are a variation of the restaurant's famed "Crunchwrap" offerings. Sure, sure, the Bell can make a damned delicious sausage country gravy and guacamole breakfast wrap, but how do they fare when taking that shit into T.G.I Fridays territory?

The trio of sliders are all modeled after your standard Applebee's appetizers. There's a chipotle-soaked shredded chicken iteration, a beef and nacho cheese stuffed version, and most interestingly, a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato permutation. Oh, and all three items are crammed with Fritos fragments, because I guess corporate probably ordered way more chips than they actually needed for their other revamped dollar menu line-up.

One of the things I really, really liked about the products was the packaging. They come in these little mail envelope packages, and the artwork on both sides is pretty neat-looking. Yeah, it is a bit basic, but I like the simplicity of the pattern -- it totally feels like something you would have gotten at the restaurant circa 1991, and who would ever want to complain about something like that?

And on the back, you get a quick bio-piece on all three Crunchwrap Slider offerings, complete with a fairly dictatorial encouragement for you to continue to consume, "They Live" style. I actually like the back packaging design here, and wished the establishment used the format with their other products ... if nothing else, so I know what the hell is actually in the meal I just purchased.

And here's the trifecta, unsheathed, unwrapped, and in all of their chunky, greasy and goopy glory. You know, as delicious as Taco Bell is (for the most part), they certainly produce some of the most unappetizing looking products in the history of the fast food business. There's probably a reason why a majority of their line up is tortilla swaddled -- shit, if you opened the top of a hamburger and saw this stuff under the bun, would you continue to chow down?

All right, item number one is the beefy nacho wrap thingy, and it is PRECISELY what you would imagine it to be. Seasoned, super-watery ground beef that may or may not be made out of centipedes and crickets? Check. Copious amounts of molten nacho juice? Accounted for. A bunch of mushy, squishy Fritos chips, who are there for no real purpose or utility? Sadly, that's affirmative.

Of course, this stuff is ultimately critic-proof. It may not be all that innovative, but it gives you what you want, expect and enjoy, and in one convenient, easily fistable, ninja-throwing star shaped package. Mmm, that hits the spot ... the spot that tastes like everything else on the Taco Bell menu, evidently.

I have a downright unhealthy obsession with chiptole sauce and/or sauces, so this was easily my favorite of the threesome. Strangely enough, chicken is probably my least favorite of the big three land animal meat varieties in the U.S., but the spiciness and cheesiness of the item definitely made the entire package -- as a big, fattening whole -- really delectable.

Additionally, this was the only one of the three sliders that I thought actually benefited from having the Fritos chunks embedded in it. If you like zesty, crunchy and just mildly mouth-scorching fast food, odds are, you're going to love this one right here.

Then, we arrive at the BLT slider, which was probably my least favorite of the bunch. It's a shame, too, because this is clearly the most unique of the three, and I really, really wanted to like it for its lighter taste and texture -- it being one of the few dollar menu offerings at the restaurant that doesn't feel like half a pound of animal flesh and fried chips tightly wound inside a flour carapace.

There's certainly a nice salad taste going on, but the bacon bits didn't really gel with the avocado sauce, which I ultimately thought to be pretty bland. That, and the Fritos chunks feel TOTALLY out of place within the product, resulting in a weird, inconsistent smooth-crunchy-salty-flowery flavor that just wasn't working at all. It's a nice try and all, but unfortunately, I don't think this one will ever be a repeat buy for this Bell enthusiast.

All in all, you really can't complain about the Crunchwrap Sliders. I mean, for God's sake, they're just a dollar -- if you're going to complain about a monetary loss that slight, you're better off dining at Del Taco, with their robust assortment of $0.59 burritos, anyway.

The chicken one was really good, the nacho beefy one was solid (if not a tad too predictable) and the BLT one was an experiment that, while interesting in design, just wasn't executed in a manner all that palatable. Ultimately, my biggest slight against all three was the inclusion of the Fritos chips, which were about as superfluous as superfluous can get. Indeed, it's a trend for the Bell that's starting to worry me, that from here on out, they're just going to jam chips inside their existing products, dab some extra sauce on it, and boldly call it a "new" offering.

But, yeah, like I was saying, they're just a dollar, and if you're hungry, they'll do you. And in that, isn't that why we love Taco Bell in the first place?


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