Archives for the month of: December, 2014

This post begins my transition from the west coast back east. The unfortunate aspect of this move, blog-wise, is that there are less fast food options in my current location, as well as fast food outlets not being as convenient (can you believe there’s no Taco Bell within a 5 minute drive?!?!). On my drive across the country, of course I was on the lookout for new places/things to eat, which led me to a Del Taco drive-thru in Flagstaff, Arizona after midnight. I’d only been to Del Taco once before, and that was sometime in 2006 in Colorado, so I had no clue what to expect. I remembered a competent fast food taco, but nothing that would make me forget Taco Bell.

Scanning the menu for new items, I came across the Surf and Taco Burrito. I knew immediately that I had to eat this. Unfortunately, I did not save the receipt. Luckily, the Del taco press release states that the burrito cost $5.29 a la carte, or $6.79 as a meal, which comes with a medium soda. Unfortunately, it appears that they no longer offer this item. However, expect a price around there if it ever makes another appearance.

Here is a burrito

Here is a burrito

Quick note before we begin: since I ate this so long ago, it’s not quite as cohesive as normal posts. I’m just following my notes, so this post just mirrors my eating experience in the order in which I wrote things down.

The Surf and Turf Burrito “is loaded with crispy golden shrimp, freshly grilled carne asada steak, lime rice, crunchy cabbage, and is topped with creamy ancho sauce, freshly chopped pico de gallo salsa and Del Taco’s secret sauce.” Let’s unpack this, shall we? Coming out of the bag, the burrito smelled good. I’ll admit it was late and I was hungry, but smelling it really put me in a good eatin’ mood, and that counts for something. It also looked pretty damn big. Del Taco says it weighs between 13-18.5 ounces. I have no clue where it landed on that scale, but I knew I was going to be full after eating this (and several tacos I got on the side). Last note before we go into the taste: I ordered this late at night, and it sat for at least 15 minutes between being handed to me, and my eating, so keep in mind Del Taco may not have put its best foot forward on this item.

Clearest shot I have

Clearest shot I have

The first few bites were just tortilla. While it did smell good, it was a little much and I wanted to get to the filling. Also, it was lukewarm, but, once again, it had been sitting. The shrimp were surprisingly not bad for fast food shrimp! They were clearly frozen, but they didn’t taste fishy or foul. The batter stayed quite crispy inside the burrito, which is quite a feat. Also, the batter had some actual flavoring and a little spice, which was a nice touch.

Surf!

Surf!

As I continued eating, I got some sauce, and it was not good. It tasted biter. I’m still not sure if this was the secret sauce, or perhaps the cabbage overwhelming other tastes. Anyway, when I got to eat the shrimp and beef together, it was a nice combo. Surf and turf! Who’d have thought it would work that well together? However, there were too many bites with only shrimp, beef and tortilla. Yes, we have an ingredient placement problem. Most burrito places can’t get this right, so it’s not like this is a special Del Taco problem, but we need an organized system for placement of ingredients in burritos. I shouldn’t have one meat bite, one veggie/sauce/guac bite, and one rice bite as I eat a burrito. They need to be mixed together.

Lots of cabbage

Lots of cabbage

Rant aside, let’s get back to the beef. To be honest, upon viewing the beef, it looked a little sickly and kinda gross. The taste was much better than the beef appeared. It also had a little spice on it (pepper), and it wasn’t too chewy, frequently a problem with fast food steak. At this point, I also started tasting a hint of lime, which added some freshness to a burrito where I know almost all of the ingredients came out of the freezer. I should say that no matter how I feel overall about this burrito, these small touches that Del Taco added really added to the experience. Things like seasoning the meat/batter so they can be tasted and squeezing some lime on top are touches overlooked by most fast food establishments, so they are definitely noticed when applied.

*Correction: The lime flavor came from the rice! Sure, it overwhelmed the rice and took out any possibly rice-y flavor it may have had, but there was no fresh squeezed lime juice on this. I should have known better. Sigh.*

Turf!

Turf!

Getting back to that bitter taste, about halfway through, I came to the conclusion that it was the cabbage. Not sure if this was a bad batch, or if it was supposed to be this bitter, but it wasn’t good and I started picking it out to avoid the taste. I decided to add some ‘Inferno Sauce’ to see how it would pair with the burrito. It was good… until my tongue and lips started burning. Definitely hotter than Taco Bell’s Fire Sauce. I thought this was going to be a regular hot sauce, not a death sauce. I had to take a break for my taste buds to recuperate before I could continue eating.

Uneven disrtibution

Uneven distribution

The rice was meh. It was there. I saw it and definitely took bites from those areas of the burrito, but I never tasted it and there wasn’t enough of it in quantity to overcome the lack of taste and force me to pay attention. This disappointed me since I like rice in burritos (yeah, I said it).

*Correction: there was a ton of rice at the bottom of this burrito. We really need to space these ingredients out. At the end, all I was eating was rice, tortilla and hot sauce.*

That fold is a little big...

That fold is a little big…

The pico de gallo suffered from the same problem as the rice. I never tasted it, so it was just there, taking up space. I also never individually identified the sauces, so I have nothing specific to say about the secret sauce, nor the creamy ancho sauce.

Burrito guts!

Burrito guts!

In conclusion, we have a pretty good burrito here! There was more beef than shrimp, but it’s not like they skimped on the shrimp, unlike the El Pollo Loco shrimp experience. Also, while this burrito isn’t cheap, as far as fast food goes, you probably need to pair it with something else to be full satisfied. I ate it with two tacos, which was probably a bit much. I think one would have sufficed. The burrito was well wrapped and didn’t leak out sauce, so you could probably even eat this in the car. I can’t comment on whether I would eat this again since I don’t like near a Del Taco and have no experience with most of their food, but this was a good burrito, and I hope Del taco brings it back so more people can give it a shot.

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Note: I have now started and stopped this post three times (as you can tell by the lack of updates here). Not sure why this sandwich was so uninspiring, but I apologize for this post and it’s disjointed nature.

This box looks a little busy

This box looks a little busy

I originally ate McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse before Taco Bell’s breakfast menu had been revealed. However, due to reasons, the post got pushed back. Luckily, McDonald’s is still advertising this as a new sandwich. This would be strange for most places, but considering that most new McDonald’s items consist of slapping together existing ingredients and adding one flourish to make it unique, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This is not to say that I don’t like McDonald’s; it’s just that as the market leader, they aren’t innovative (except in areas where they’re making drinks), but their interest to challenge Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t particularly interest me.

Enough of my McDonald’s thoughts, let’s actually discuss the sandwich and the experience, alright? This was a new McDonald’s, as the company seems to be trying to move away from their bright red and yellow past into something more modern and apt to attract people who don’t want to eat in a place that looks like a clown show. This is good, I guess? I like free wifi. Anyway, I ordered a medium meal and it cost $7.19 pre tax. A little on the expensive side, or at least it seems like it was expensive. (As a quick diversion, I used to work at McDonald’s, so paying for anything there is still a shock to the system, even though I stopped working there around 10 years ago). The food took around 5 minutes to come out.

The sandwich was presented in a nice box, which a paper wrap around the sandwich to help with lifting. The paper was actually a nice touch here since the sandwich took up most of the box, so there was no way to pick it up without getting my hands messy and shuffling ingredients in the burger. Since it was big compared to the box, my first view was of the bun, which looked fancy. Or at least nicer than the usual sesame seed bun. It also smelled damn good, but that’s because all I smelled was bacon. Quick tip for fast food restaurants: regardless of the quality of your bacon, it always smells good. Make your establishments smell like that.

Wasn't kidding when I said the burger took up the whole box (alternate: they made the boxes smaller)

Wasn’t kidding when I said the burger took up the whole box (alternate: they made the boxes smaller)

The Bacon Clubhouse Burger is “[t]hick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, carmelized grilled onions, white cheddar, crisp leaf lettuce and fresh tomato, all lovingly layered on a quarter pound of 100% pure beef, then topped with Big Mac special sauce. Served on [an] artisan roll.” So what we have here is flowery language for a fancy Quarter Pounder with some Big Mac sauce. An updated Big N Tasty, if you will.

I tried to pick this up and, once again, I thanked them for that paper wrap around the burger, because it was already slipping and sliding. This is going to be messy. My first bite was dominated by bacon. I got a good chunk in there, plus the smell. After I got beyond the bacon though, this was dry. The artisan bun was not doing it’s job as it was actually detracting from the experience with its dryness. It looked nice, but that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. When sampled alone it was buttery and reminded me of potato bread, but it didn’t work here.

Flat

Flat

Going beyond the bun, I got a bit of the grilled carmelized onions. I generally hate onions, and this is really the only preparation where I find them tolerable. I have to say, they weren’t too bad. The onion flavor was a bit strong for my liking, but they did a good job with these.

Fresh ingredients!

Fresh ingredients!

My second bite was salty, as the bacon overtook the dry bun and asserted its dominance in the sandwich. I got a taste of the cheddar here, and it seemed to be a strong American cheese. It did its job in providing an accent, without overpowering anything. The Big Mac sauce was a welcome addition. I like McDonald’s utilizing it on more sandwiches. It tastes good, and sometimes I want it, but don’t feel like fighting through all the bread on the Big Mac, nor do I want to make a special order. Having another sandwich with the option is great.

The burger looks really dark

The burger looks really dark

As I continued eating, the burger became really salty. Not sure if that was just because of the bacon, but I found myself repeatedly going to my soda to alleviate the salty taste. When I finally got all the sandwich components in one bite, the bacon and Big Mac Sauce saved the day. They are the two standouts here, and if you’re ordering this sandwich, those are the flavors that you really want to shine anyway. The onions added a good crunch, but the flavor was lost in this bite.

Oozing sauce

Oozing sauce

The problem with the sauce is how they slathered it on the sandwich. It’s on both the top and bottom buns, which is why the sandwich is so slippery and I was having a hard time holding it. In addition, because I had to guard against sauce squirting out at two different spots, this was messy.

Sandwich guts!

Sandwich guts!

The burger was a letdown. While McDonald’s doesn’t have the juiciest or best tasting burgers, they’re generally well seasoned and taste like beef. I did not get that here. It was just a dry wad in the middle of my sandwich. The bacon itself smelled like heaven. It was a little overdone for my taste, but that’s generally how McDonald’s makes its bacon.

The lettuce at least looked fresh, but there was way too much of it. It was falling out of the sandwich, and of course sauce was in all the crevices. I had to take some off so I could continue eating. I have no notes on the tomato, which at least means it wasn’t terrible and needed to be taken off.

Bread is slipping

Bread is slipping

So what do we really have here? A salty, over sauced sandwich that serves as a delivery vehicle for bacon and Big Mac sauce, and is really messy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing… but it’s also not making me run out to McDonald’s to eat this again. And with the luxury of eating this when it first came out, and writing this in December, I can say that I’ve been to McDonald’s probably an average of once a month since then, and have never thought of eating this again. That’s the problem with McDonald’s: the new items, at least in the traditional fast food category aren’t particularly exciting. They’re #1 and don’t need to take any chances, so instead we sandwiches that have small tweaks on the margins (New sauce! Bacon!), but don’t really change anything. This is a perfectly cromulent burger, but that’s all I can honestly say about it.