Taco Bell's New Quesarito Makes Me Reconsider Fast-Food Loyalties
I have distinct loyalties where fast food is concerned.
Photo courtesy Taco Bell My Quesarito did not look like that.
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.
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.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg That nice sear on the outside is part of what makes it a Quesarito.
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?"
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