For years, Taco Bell has urged diners to “think outside the bun” – a not-so-subtle dig in that its menu lacked the ho-hum assortment of burgers and sandwiches that define the lineups. ‘expectation of most fast food chains.
But apparently Taco Bell, which is part of Yum! YUM brands,
family, is ready to compromise on this ideal. Why else would he join the chicken sandwich bandwagon and offer his own version of the article that’s been all the rage in recent years?
Well, to be clear, it’s not a sandwich per se. It’s a crispy chicken taco sandwich with a wrapper that’s a cross between a taco shell and something more like bread.
It is also a failure in my humble opinion.
In truth, I’ve never been a huge fan of Taco Bell, as I find its version of Mexican food too milquetoast – you can do a lot better in most local Mexican restaurants (even those that are quite Americanized) or in taco trucks, which often deliver a truly authentic product at a remarkably low price. Granted, the Mexican’s idea of Taco Bell is all about convenience (it’s fast food, after all), but I often feel like you’re sacrificing a lot of taste in the process.
But I like a good crispy chicken sandwich. And if it’s spicy, I’m all the more satisfied.
The Taco Bell Taco Sandwich was introduced as a limited time offer a few weeks ago and comes in spicy and regular versions. Prices may vary by location, but the official cost is $ 2.49 per sandwich (uh, taco). It delivers on the front of the chicken: we are talking about a fried chicken strip or a tender sized piece of chicken, not a whole breast, but it is real meat that has been marinated in what Taco Bell calls it “jalapeño buttermilk” and seasoned with “fat Mexican spice”, before being lightly breaded in “a crispy tortilla chip coating”. There’s a creamy chipotle sauce as a finishing touch, although the spicy version adds slices of jalapeño for extra heat.
Put three or four of these strips between two bread halves – maybe with lettuce and tomato for added texture – and you might end up with a helluva chicken sandwich. In fact, this might be a smart approach to a pie, the Mexican version of a sandwich.
Instead, Taco Bell gave us a mini taco sandwich – roughly the equivalent of a slider – served on a weird flatbread. The bread is more like a small pita – slightly dense and completely at odds with the filling. “Is this Taco Bell or a Greek gyroscopic restaurant?” I found myself asking.
Taco Bell declined to comment on the matter.
For comparison, I tried a few other chicken dishes on the Taco Bell menu. And you know what makes a decent version of a chicken taco sandwich? A real taco! Specifically, the Soft Taco Supreme (it normally comes with beef, but you can substitute for the chicken). It’s got all the elements – protein (the chicken here isn’t fried, but still does the job), veg, cheese – and it’s wrapped in a fine, soft flour taco, something that works with the topping. Sure, it’s not a “sandwich”, but it makes sense.
Obviously, Taco Bell decided he had to go the cutesy lane in order to jump on the chicken train. Either way, the chain is on dry land these days. Its parent company, Yum !, which is also behind KFC and Pizza Hut, saw its share increase by around 16.5% this year, with the company posting a strong second quarter.
According to restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski, Taco Bell has been the key to Yum’s recent success! and he expects the chain to carry more poultry items in the near future, including wings. “I think they have more chicken up their sleeves,” he says.
Kalinowski also doesn’t think the chicken sandwich craze will die off in the fast food world anytime soon. Part of the reason, he argues, is that Americans are increasingly turning away from red meat. And even when the chicken is fried and topped with a creamy sauce, it’s still considered best for you. “The chicken carries a healthy halo with it,” says Kalinowski.
While the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco is a new item (although tested since 2019, according to Taco Bell), the chain points to a history of chicken innovation, such as in a menu item like the Naked Chicken Chalupa. The company also notes that it has used flatbread style packaging in other offerings.
But I stick to my point: the name of the company is Taco Bell, not Flatbread Bell. And there shouldn’t be any confusion as to whether you’re eating a sandwich or a taco.