Taco Bell's New Quesarito Makes Me Reconsider Fast-Food Loyalties

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Photo courtesy Taco Bell
My Quesarito did not look like that.
I have distinct loyalties where fast food is concerned.

I grew up in Corpus Christi, birthplace of Whataburger. The first Texas-based fast food chain opened on Ayers Street in 1950 and quickly spread like an orange and white wildfire across the city. When I was in high school, I'd walk to Whataburger with my friends every day after class, and we'd spend the next couple of hours crammed in a booth eating french fries and burgers and downing chocolate milkshakes.

I attended Trinity University in San Antonio for college, and I quickly discovered that the original Taco Cabana was just a few blocks away from campus. After nights out drinking too much Lone Star at local bars, we'd end up at Taco Cabana, ordering half the menu and several large cups of water in an effort to ward off hangovers. To this day, I swear that a large queso and half a dozen tortillas consumed before bed will have you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, no matter how much you imbibed the previous night.

Taco Bell, however, I have always hated.

For some reason, though I worship at the altar of Taco Cabana, I've always been offended by the notion of Taco Bell. In my mind, Taco Bell takes the simple, wholesome Tex-Mex of my youth and tries to put a creative spin on it, ultimately creating a bastardized version of the original dish that's neither appetizing nor of any value nutritionally. Plus, I remember someone pointing out to me as a child that the ground meat there looks like cat food. I've never been able to see it the same way.

And then there's the sauce, intended to be used in lieu of fresh salsa. Salsa should not come in plastic-coated foil bags like ketchup. That's just wrong.

So I admit freely that it had been years--possibly a decade--since I last ate at Taco Bell when I decided to give the new Quesarito a try. For science. I don't know how I managed to avoid the place for so long, particularly as it was the Tex-Mex ideal back in Missouri where I attended grad school, and many of my friends (even the Texans) swear by the impossibly cheap tacos. I steadfastly maintained my snobbery, though, telling anyone who'd listen that Taco Cabana is soooooo much more legit.

Until now.

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Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
That nice sear on the outside is part of what makes it a Quesarito.
The same reason I've often hated on Taco Bell is the precise reason I was so intrigued by the Quesarito: It's the master of the culinary portmanteau. There's the Crunchwrap Supreme®, like a crisp pita pocket or a giant octagonal empanada stuffed with everything that would usually be found in a taco. It's "grilled for maximum portability." There's the Mexican Pizza, a double decker heartburn-inducer with two "pizza shells" filled with meat, beans, cheese and pizza sauce. At one point, there was the Taco Bell version of the Chaco Taco on the menu, but that seems to be gone now.

So it was with a mixture of intrigue and disgust that I read about the Quesarito, an item that many have claimed was stolen from Chipotle's secret menu. According to those in the know, you can order a quesadilla at Chipotle and have the quesadilla serve as the wrapper for your burrito. I have tried to order this several times, and each time the servers have looked at me like I was crazy, like I'd just requested a heart attack wrapped in tin foil, which, essentially, I had.

I was met with a far different reaction when I pulled forward in the drive through at Taco Bell on a Thursday morning to pay for my single Quesarito.

"Oh girl, you already in love with that new Quesarito, huh?"

It was too early for a woman in a polo shirt at a drive through window to be so excited about meat wrapped in cheese wrapped in carbs.

"I haven't tried it yet," I told her. "But I hear good things?"

This story continues on the next page.

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17 comments
Chris Fletcher
Chris Fletcher

Chipotle has been secretly doing this for years.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

In summary, KS has Taco Bell on her shitlist because of the shitty food, then goes there eats something that is pretty much right up the middle with respect to Taco Bell permutations, and enjoys the shitty food because this item is new and different, much better than the other shitty food they serve.  Somehow I'm not surprised.

Ryan Harcourt
Ryan Harcourt

This is gonna make things tough for the old gut

Jeremiah Tallerine
Jeremiah Tallerine

If it has that shitty stadium nacho cheese in it I'll still hate it :/

James Nelson
James Nelson

Ryan Harcourt Jeremiah Tallerine your dream have been answered

TXKathy
TXKathy

Of course Taco Cabana is more legit. No sane person compares Taco Cabana and Taco Bell. They are not the same class of restaurant, and both are pretty great in their own way. Both are great for late night, after-bar munchies, but only one do you actual enter and sit down. Items on Taco Bell's menu are nearly all less than a dollar. Taco Cabana makes fresh tortillas every day. Come on, did you really spend all these years considering the two to be rival franchises? That's like comparing Cyclone Anaya's to Spanish Flowers. Both good, but not in the same weight class.

HoustonFoodie
HoustonFoodie

@Bruce_Are That is pretty much the formula for all her restaurant reviews, no? Go to establishment with preconceptions that it will suck, often based on her experience with a restaurant where she grew up, and complain about it in advance, then taste food and discover that, indeed, it does not actually suck, contrary to her ill-informed assumptions about it before actually trying it, and conclude by expressing her pleasant surprise that Houston food does not suck as much as she thought it would. (In case she ever needs a ghost writer, I am ready to take over her column while she's on vacation. ;) )

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@TXKathy Everything on Taco Bell's menu is at least a dollar now.  How long has it been since you went there?

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@TXKathy I don't consider them rivals, but most people I know compare them as they're both fast food Tex-Mex restaurants. Like I said in the article, I don't think Taco Bell is on the same level as Taco Cabana at all, but I've had many a friend try to convince me they're equally as good.

htownsexymama
htownsexymama

@HoustonFoodie @Bruce_Are I am a former Press food blog contributor; I decided not to write any more for the blog after a few interactions with the Press' editor. In addition, the $20 per post is a joke. What I also discovered is that the lead restaurant/food critic at the paper is very inexperienced and has a very mediocre palate. (I think it is an indication of the state of the Press that she is all they could find to fill the position. Word gets out.) 

TXKathy
TXKathy

Lol your friends are nuts. ;-)

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