Taco Bell. One of the cornerstones of our great civilization, yet mostly a North American institution, like deep fried Twinkies, or Rate My Poo. Personally, it is one of my favorite fast food restaurants. I have enjoyed many great meals from this chain, at all hours of the day. But what happens when I wipe the Vaseline off of my lenses and look at this restaurant with a critical eye? Will I still glow with praise for their Cheesy Gordita Crunches? Or will the Pintos and Cheese claim yet another curious customer? The FAST FOOD CRITIC is here to find out.
On Thursday July 14th, 2011, I visited the Taco Bell location in Aptos, California. Upon entering the establishment, I noted that the restaurant was clean. There was no cluttering decor here. Just a Spartan arrangement of tables and booths. The few customers in the restaurant consisted of a pair of overweight stoners, and overweight businessman, and a thin lower class family. Obviously a cross section of our American population. The patrons were quiet and kept to themselves, and there were no vagrants humping garbage cans in the restroom, so this allowed for high marks in the ambiance category.
When I finally walked up to the counter, I was promptly greeted by the hostess who began to take my appetizer and drink order. Very professional service. My server finished the process by taking my entree order, and totaling up my bill. There was no pining for gratuity, and service was prompt. The only problem I encountered was when I received a "to go" order instead of my "for here" order. Overall, strong start by the restaurant staff, but a bit of a fumbled finish. Serviceable.
Now then, the food. I ordered four items for dinner, regular nachos, a cheesy gordita crunch, an authentic Mexican pizza, and a frutista freeze to drink. The total came to $8.10. A four course meal for less than $10? Color Me Badd! And then impressed!
The first thing that occurred to me as I started to eat my meal were the consistency of the nachos. Somehow, in their secret lab, Dr. Bell has found a way to make their chips soft, yet simultaneously crunchy. A culinary mystery, not unlike sweet and sour sauce. Or Golden Grahams. (How do they cram all that graham anyway?) The nacho cheese was spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, and it was similar to stadium nacho cheese, yet with only a fourth of the price. Good eats!
Next up was the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. A personal favorite of mine, but only when done correctly. This time unfortunately, this golden deity of fast food was merely a false idol. The cheese between layers was not melted, robbing the gordita of its chewy cheese, and the crunchy taco was not crunchy at all, perhaps even stale? Sub par and disappointing.
Thankfully, the authentic Mexican pizza picked up the slack. The crust was the physics defying consistency of the chips, the cheese was mostly melted, and it was hot throughout, despite being my third course. The green onion topping was mysteriously lacking, but overall great effort.
Finally, for dessert, it was on to the Fruitista freeze. This is a margarita like concoction of delicious fruit preserves that is guaranteed to win over even the most grizzled of food critics. On this occasion it delivered like a charm, and filled its role as the slurpee's fancy cousin to perfection. Cheers.
Overall this was a tasty, though forgettable dining experience. I didn't die from the food, so that's a plus, but the botched service and inconsistent quality of the food didn't do this Taco Bell any favors.