Two of the most beloved value menu offerings from Taco Bell have returned - but are the much ballyhooed "fan favorites" as good as our nostalgic recollections have led us to believe?
By: Jimbo X
Having written so many articles about Taco Bell menu items, I often find myself wondering just how in the hell I am going to be able to do a product review about the latest and greatest Taco Bell foodstuff without sounding like a broken record (or a scratched CD if you are under the age of 30, or a corrupted MP3 file, if you are under the age of 18.) I mean, there are only so many different ways you can describe a tortilla and its contents, right?
Thankfully, Taco Bell is quite a bit more than just another fast food establishment. Indeed, it is a shining exemplar of American consumerism excess, with a fervid fandom that rivals the intense team loyalty of just about any sports organization. There is unquestionably a "Taco Bell culture," and the social media origins of the returning Beefy Crunch and Cheesy Double Beef Burritos demonstrates both its enormity and passion for all things Bell.
About five years ago, the establishment introduced a $1 sour-cream, beef and rice burrito, which also came loaded with a handful of spicy Fritos chunks. Unsurprisingly, the product proved a smash hit with stoners and broke ass college students across America, but eventually, it was bumped off the main menu to make way for the Bell's grandest marketing blitzkrieg to date - the Doritos Locos Tacos.
So, for most Americans, it has been about five years since they last tasted the Beefy Crunch Burrito. Because we really don't have anything more important to do with our lives than start up petitions to bring back novelty fast food items, a Facebook campaign urging T.B. To resurrect the item eventually grew to 41,000 backers. The leader of the so-called "Beefy Crunch Movement" was so adamant that his favorite fast food provider bring back the item that he even mailed them a 14-page manifesto describing in insane detail why the company ought to bring it back into production.
And - because corporations have a more thorough understanding of the power of social media-borne movements AND the ironic, kooky passions of Generation Bernie - they FINALLY decided to wheel the "fan favorite" product out again. And if that wasn't enough, they even decided to bring back another long-forgotten value-priced item, the Cheesy Double Beef Burrito, at the same rock-bottom price of just-o uno dinero.
As you can no doubt see, the exterior tortilla shells are completely unremarkable. It's just your standard, soft flour wrap, slightly toasted but not enough to make it more crispy than mushy (except, maybe, around the enclosed "folded" pocket corners.) While the recipe should be the same no matter where you pick up the burritos, we must remind ourselves that humans are indeed fallible creatures, so the overall quality of your wrapped comestible will vary. By now, though, you should have a firm idea of which restaurants in your vicinity make the best burritos, and which ones have insanely high turnover rates and are stocked with high school juniors that just don't give a fuck. And yes, one glimpse at the haphazardly constructed pseudo Tex-Mex meal offering on the right ought to tell you PRECISELY the type of personnel staffing the Bell nearest my abode.
Let's start with the Cheesy Double Beef Burrito first, why don't we? For those not in the loop, the product was introduced at the height of the Great Recession as an 89 cent item, and was officially discontinued in 2010 (although I have heard reports that the product, in some locales, was on the menu up until 2012.) As the name implies, the hook here if that you get a double portion of seasoned beef and a shit load of melted cheese (with some rice in between, playing the stratosphere to the troposphere of ground up cow and the mesosphere of congealed udder runoff.)
To be frank (but not this Frank), I really don't have any recollections of the original Cheesy Double Beef Burrito, so yeah, the nostalgia quotient isn't too high for me here. On the whole, it is a fairly serviceable little burrito, although I'm not entirely sure my local Bell really doubled the meat ratio for my $1 item. It's good, I suppose, but honestly, nothing worth writing home about. Speaking of, isn't it about time that colloquialism was replaced with "nothing worth sending an email about?" anyway?
And now we come to the big enchilada (which, technically, isn't an enchilada, but you know what I'm trying to say.) Now, I do vividly recall the Fritos Beefy Crunch Burrito from back in 2011 and eating a whole shit load of them - this, despite the fact that my professed food faith back then was "vegetarian." Hey, when you are a broke-ass junior in college, ain't nobody got time for food ethics, y'know. Of course, anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Fritos Beefy Crunch Burrito can see where the staffers at my nearest Bell royally messed up...
...those no-count motherfuckers used REGULAR Fritos when we all know you have to use those spicy red ones! Needless to say, this spectacular display of ineptness irked me to no end, so after I was down setting fire to the establishment - oh, the things you can get away with when nobody working the late night shift speaks English as a first language - I hauled my ass off to a better Taco Bell affiliate literally a county over. Extreme measures, some may say, but then again, we've been waiting five years for these suckers to make a comeback ... not only is a little arson to be expected, it might as well be encouraged.
Thankfully, the answer there is a big "nope, they sure didn't." Indeed, the relaunched Fritos Beefy Crunch Burritos - when properly assembled by a well-trained and qualified crew - taste EXACTLY the same as it did in our Year of the Lord 2011. Rest assured, obscure fast food menu offering fanatics, T.B took great strides to ensure the historic quality of the product remains intact for its big re-introduction. The tortillas are still hefty and a little pokey (as you would expect from a burrito stuffed fool of fiery corn chips), and the amalgamation of greasy beef and sour cream is just sheer, obesity-baiting perfection. A fast food behemoth that has more or less made its cultural imprint by providing filling, low-cost, weird-ass novelty consumer products, this remains one of the absolute most brilliant - and astonishingly tasty - creations the Almighty Bell has ever produced. And at just one dollar, even the most lumbering lard-asses out there can pound their colons into Tex-Mex submission for less than an Abe Lincoln. Ultimately, the popularity of the product relaunch will determine whether or not the second wave of Fritos Beefy Crunch Burritos is a two-and-done failed experiment, but financial hit or not, I at least hope Team Bell makes an effort to release the offering as a Shamrock Shake\Pumpkin Spice Latte-like seasonal item every Cinco de Mayo. I mean, considering all the Metformin I have to take after spending the last five years reviewing nearly every limited time only product they have hawked to the masses - yes, even the Cap'n Crunch-co-branded cinnamon roll balls - I think that is the absolute LEAST they owe me, and human civilization as a whole.
And if the relaunched burritos wasn't a big enough deal, guess what else Taco Bell decided to roll back out? Consider me tickled pink when I waltzed into my neighborhood Bell and saw a whole slew of these bad boys just hanging out behind the cash register, anxiously awaiting to be stuffed in those little plastic cubby holes next to the sporks and brown paper towels. By now, my adulation for Diablo Sauce is well documented, so I shan't squander too much time restating what everybody with half a brain and quasi-functioning taste buds already know. Rest assured, however, that this stuff is H-O-T (at least a 7 on the "adjusted for white people" Scoville scale), flavorful and the perfect complement to your value-priced nostalgia-ritos. Also, it will make your butthole burn for at least a solid 24 hours, but hey - that's the price you gotta' pay sometimes.
So, to recap? The Cheesy Double Beef thing is just sorta' meh, but a good goddamn, is the Fritos Beefy Crunch Burrito - especially one soaked in the savory, NWO Wolfpack-colored hot sauce - a fantastic little novelty product. And who knows? Perchance the success of the relaunched 'rito will convince the Bell to trot out some of its other long-forgotten offerings. I mean, if Burger King is willing to bring back the motherfucking Yumbo, they at least owe us a L-T-O Bell Beefer, don't they?