Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Taco Bell

The tamest $1 Happier Hour one might ever encounter.

Today, we went to Taco Bell. Taco Bell is another favorite destination for us when Jerome’s mom isn’t around because she hates the place. We visited the Eugene location on West 7th Street.

First a little history: the first Taco Bell opened in 1962 in Downey, California. Successful restaurateur Glen Bell (not to be confused with Glenn Beck) founded Taco Bell and is the likely namesake. In 1978, Bell sold Taco Bell to Pepsi. Today, Taco Bell is owned by Yum! Brands, who also own KFC and Pizza Hut. There are over 6,400 restaurants worldwide.

For the few uninitiated, Taco Bell serves Tex Mex cuisine cheap and fast. Their menu features the usual burritos, tacos, nachos, and quesadillas and their cousins gorditas, chalupas, and “grillers.” Taco Bell ranks alongside McDonald’s in the collective unconscious’s list of restaurants devoid of any nutritional value. Best known for allegedly causing explosive diarrhea, Taco Bell is also famous for bizarre commercials featuring a now-deceased Taco Bell-enjoying Chihuahua. I guess the take home message was that their food is meant for dogs.

Taco Bell’s d├ęcor could be described as vaguely Southwestern-hued with a market-researched focus on enticing mass consumption. The dining area is composed of furniture that can be easily hosed down if need be. The clientele included a family engaged in a lively discussion about a three-year-old’s peeing habits. Apparently, the time between bathroom visits was too short for the parent’s liking, and the three-year-old would “not be permitted to use a restroom ever again.” I half wanted to follow the family to find out what would happen when the child inevitably needed to urinate again, but I had dog food to review. Apparently, Taco Bell was also concerned about three-year-olds using their bathroom too much because one had to enter a key code to get into the restroom. The code is “0704.”
Sure, Taco Bell employees are supposed to wash their hands before serving pasketti (bottom right), but what about other foods?
On this visit, we ran into our friend Pat. Pat is in the local band Black Delany, and he just got back from a two-week tour up-and-down (and back up) the West Coast. Pat was a good sport and let us eat with him and ask him about his food.

There was no line when we arrived a little after two. And, from 2pm to 5pm, Taco Bell has “$1 Happier Hour.” I took advantage of my timing and purchased one of each of the “grillers”: Spicy Buffalo Chicken, Loaded Potato, and Beefy Nacho. According to Google, “griller” is Spanish for crap rolled up in a tortilla and grilled. In addition, I ordered the Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla because it looked new, and people prefer to read about new stuff. Jerome ordered what he always orders: a bean and cheese burrito kids meal with an extra bean and cheese burrito and a cheesy roll-up, which is basically a small cheese quesadilla rolled up.

Our tab looked like this:
  • Bean Burrito Kids Meal (includes Cinnamon Twists and Small Drink) $2.99
  • Bean Burrito $0.99
  • Cheesy Roll-Up $0.99
  • Loaded Potato Griller $1
  • Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller $1
  • Beefy Nacho Griller $1
  • Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla (includes chips, salsa, and sour cream) $4.99
  • Total: $12.96

I should not have eaten all of this.
This was more than enough food for the two of us. I could have conceivably been fine with just the three grillers and had a $3 lunch. Jerome wasn’t able to finish his cinnamon twists (aka “churros”.)

As for quality, “Bean and cheese burritos are one of my favorite foods. Taco Bell makes them really well. I like the burritos really hot and melty. That is when they are the best. If it’s just warm, it is stiff. Today, my burritos were hot like I like them, but sometimes they are not.”

Jerome also really enjoyed his cheesy rollup, but he could take or leave the cinnamon twists.

As for me, of the three grillers, I enjoyed the Loaded Potato Griller the most. It had the most flavor. The potato chunks were deep-fried and reminiscent of French fries. There were bacon bits in it which are no substitute for real bacon strips, but at least the flavor was there. As for everything else I ate, each was more indistinguishable than the next. Texture aside, any single ingredient rolled up in or thrown between tortillas could be substitute for any other and no one would notice.

The Spicy Buffalo Chicken Griller was somewhat spicy, but there was nothing even suggesting the chefs at Taco Bell had any clue what the hot sauce created by Teressa and Frank Bellissimo in 1964 Buffalo tasted like. The Beefy Nacho Griller was nowhere near crunchy enough to have “nacho” in its name. And, the Cantina Doublesteak Quesadilla would more fittingly be called “Steak-Themed Gooey Messadilla.”

Step 1: Offer kids toys with meals. Step 2: Market it during kids' TV shows. Step 3: Have kids begging their parents to take them to your unhealthy restaurant. Step 4: Profit!
How We Rate It:

Pat had a Volcano Burrito, and he was disappointed it wasn’t as spicy as he wanted it to be. On a scale of 1 to 54, he rated Taco Bell as “in the 20s.”

Jerome gave Taco Bell 32 out of 54 because “Unless it’s really really good, it’s hard to rate it high. I put restaurants in to five categories: Pretty Bad, Bad, Okay, Good, and Really Good. Taco Bell would be good.”

I give Taco Bell 22 out of 54. As a frugal person, I like that I can fill up for very little money. Yet, I almost always regret eating there because the food really isn’t that good for you. I recommend saving Taco Bell for those nights when you’ve had too much to drink and nothing else is open. Otherwise, visit any of your local Mexican restaurants. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good they are.


  1. Sometimes I'll stop by there and order a 7 Layer Burrito with no rice, extra sour cream and extra guacamole. When I do plan on ordering this, I bring an extra shirt.

  2. Do you know if there is lard in the refried beans? Thanks!