I got a sneak preview taste of Taco Bell's latest and greatest limited-time only offering. So does the much ballyhooed Quesalupa live up to all the hype?
By: Jimbo X
Taco Bell certainly knows how to do promotions. Even if you don't like the fast food establishment, you at least have to admire their stick-to-itiveness. Once these guys get a hold of something that works, they're going to milk it for all its worth. I fully expect to be eating Doritos Locos Tacos permutations until the year 2050 and by the time I am on my death bed, I wholeheartedly expect to have tasted Cinnabon Delights incorporating ever last General Mills cereal in production.
The peculiar thing about Taco Bell's ongoing quesa-everything jihad is that it is an idea more or less stolen from their No. 1 competitor. For years, hardcore Chipotle enthusiasts spoke of something called the "quesarito" - being, as the portmanteau would suggest, a whole damn quesadilla wrapped around a burrito. Or is it a burrito with a quesadilla inside it? Regardless, it was a fabled "secret" menu item that captivated the Internet.
But Chipotle, you see, made a dire mistake. Instead of running with the social-media-spawned gimmick, they never took the thing national and incorporated into their regular lineup. Chipotle - that hipper, more adult taco shack, that prides itself on organic whole grain-blah-blah - was above mass-marketing such a hokey and corny product. They didn't want customers coming to their stores for kitschy freak food, but for high-quality, overpriced salads. And that's where Taco Bell took advantage.
Apparently not knowing they were sitting on a goldmine, the suits at Chipotle never trademarked the term "quesarito." This allowed Taco Bell's parent company YUM! Brands to swoop in and steal the core concept underneath their snooty, pretentious noses and mass produce their own damned 'rito. As expected, the Taco Bell version of the Chipotle "hack" was a huge success, spawning several variations including one augmented by Sriracha sauce and the other doused with the brand's beloved lava sauce.
The end result? In 2015, Taco Bell sales increased 4 percent, while Chipotle sales declined 37 percentage points. Granted, a national e. coli scare was at the heart of Chipotle's disastrous performance, but still - ever since Bell got the quesarito - the cheese encrusted Spear of Habsburg it is - they have utterly dominated the pseudo-Tex-Mex market in the U.S. of A.
And the latest stop on the quesa-everything express? By golly, would you believe they went and made themselves a Quesalupa now? Yes, that's right - a chulapa with a quesarito baked inside it. Yeah, you heard me right - not wrapped around, not wrapped inside, but motherfucking fried inside the flaky, chewy chalupa soft shell itself. I don't know how they did it either, but it's probably Satanism. You know, like the kind Hitler allegedly practiced in the waning days of World War II. BUT I DIGRESS.
Before the product was wheeled out nationwide, those who printed out an RSVP coupon thingy were privy to trying themselves a sample 'lupa on Feb. 6. To say Taco Bell went all out for the promotion is kind of like saying the NFL gets just a wee bit grandiloquent in time for the Super Bowl. Stores are already adorned with promotional materials hailing the arrival of this (not-so) secret menu item. In fact, when you actually GET your Quesalupa, the thing is decked out in a spiffy, faux-gold wrapper, like it was the gilded winning ticket from Willy Wonka or a first-run copy of The Legend of Zelda. This thing, you can just tell, is going to be something special.
As soon as you unwrap the packaging, you'll observe the 'lupa is wrapped up in a secondary wrapper, a'la the Doritos Locos Tacos. On one side it mentions the product's name (in case you have Alzheimer's and need to be reminded of what you're chewing at all times) and on the other, the product extols itself as "the cheese lover's shell" with an "extra cheesy center." You just know something has to have a lot of cheese on it and inside it, if it uses the word cheese twice on one piece of cardboard.
For the most part, the product is basically just your standard chalupa. In fact, just looking at the product, there is really no way to distinguish it from a standard 'lupa. It is not until you actually hold this sumbitch in your hand that you really find out this is a whole new menu offering. The most obvious distinguishing characteristic is that this thing is heavy, feeling almost twice as hefty as the regular chalupa. Interestingly enough, almost all of the product's weight is centralized toward the bottom, which has this weird rectangular-shaped base. In fact, it is so flat you can easily use it to stand the Quesalupa upright without any of its contents tipping over. And hey, speaking of contents...
...yeah, they are the exact same stuff you'd find in a regular chalupa. You get your ground beef (which I hear is now only 12 percent "mystery" product nowadays), some pieces of sliced tomato, a lot of iceberg lettuce, some shredded cheddar and of course, a big old dollop of sour cream hanging out at the bottom of the shell, just gluing everything in place. For the most part, the chalupa shell is unchanged, but with one huge difference.
So, you might be wondering "eh, Jimbo, where's the fuckin' quasadilla part they promised us?" Well, Mr. and/or Mrs. Toilet Mouth, the quesadilla isn't around or even inside the chalupa. It is literally baked inside it, in much the same way the cheese is baked with stuffed crust pizzas. So fundamentally, the chalupa shell itself is really nothing more than a quesadilla caked in masa and deep-fried. Which, depending on your perspective, is either the grossest thing ever or the most delicious ... and probably both, at the same time.
It's pretty hard to capture the white cheese on white tortilla on white chalupa shell, so you'll just have to make do with this photo, I am afraid. Indeed, the bottom of the item is absolutely loaded with melted, delicious queso, and it certainly gives the product a nice, flavorful kick. Needless to say, this thing is very filling - as someone who eats cheesy bean and rice burritos like Tic-Tacs, I can assure you two of these things back-to-back will have you in a partial food stamp coma in no time. Alas, as I wrapped up my 'lupa (get it! because it's entire gimmick is that it is all wrapped up and shit), it suddenly dawned on me - this may very well be the first Taco Bell L-T-O product I've eaten in a long time that was sans a specialty sauce of any kind. As delicious as the 'lupa is - and yes, it is indeed delicious - it really could've used a little extra something to make it stand out even more. Then again, that's just part and parcel of Taco Bell's grander scheme, I suppose; we enjoy the Quesalupa for a month, it goes away, and just when we've all but forgotten about it ... coming, this August, the all-new SRIRACHA QUESALUPA! Mark my words, they will find a way to make a Fritos co-branded 'lupa - somehow, someway, someday.
|Remember kids: the number one cause of house fires are burritos.|
All right folks, time for my final thoughts on the newfangled Quesalupa. Overall, I think it's a darn snazzy little product, and something I certainly don't mind paying $2.99 for. While it does sound like a gimmick, the surfeit of cheese welded inside the shell really does make the offering taste like something entirely different, and as I stated earlier, it unquestionably does a dandy job filling you up. With so much hype, though, I really wished the Bell would have done something entirely different, but then again, I suppose that's part of the big picture; you start off with the "normal" product, and then over the next two years, you wheel out all of the crazy shit - imagine, if your mind doesn't explode doing so, a bacon-bit encrusted, Volcano-sauce-doused Quesalupa, with like, a fuckin' ranch Dorito's flavored shell. Oh, it's coming. You know it is.
So, uh, to conclude and stuff? The Quesalupa is good. Really, really good, and you should probably try it. And Taco Bell should give them to me for free, because considering all of the free publicity I've given them over the years, I more than damn deserve it.