Archives for the month of: July, 2017

Taco Bell’s general modus operandi is to create new food items or just double (or triple!) the portion size of an existing item. Why serve a regular burrito, when you can serve an XL burrito? The question is so silly it shouldn’t even be asked.

The XL Steakhouse Burrito comes with chips and queso. The chips and queso are not an add-on to the burrito, they are necessary accompaniments. I think I see that Taco Bell is looking to give a restaurant feel to a bigger and pricier item, but for me personally, I’d prefer to eat a different menu item rather than waste stomach space on Taco Bell chips and queso. The collection of foods cost $6.49, and I added on a medium drink for $1, which lines up with the cost of a meal at other fast food outlets. Of course, that means this is expensive for Taco Bell. The burrito itself contained steak, bacon, queso, sour cream and fried potatoes.

To run through the sides before we get to the main event, the chips were meh. They were nice and salty, but thin and stale tasting. The chips sometimes broke when dripped in the queso. The queso was better and is more in line with what I expect from Taco Bell. It had a nice spicy cheesy taste. The only problem with the queso was the consistency: it was too soupy, which makes me think it came from a mix.

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The meal came in a large cardboard box, and the burrito itself was in brown paper. From the looks of it, it was a hefty burrito. Taking into account on the presentation and the size of the burrito, you’d be happy receiving this form your local burrito establishment, while also wondering how they made an oblong burrito.

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My first bite was tortilla and fried potato. I wasn’t sure if the potatoes were fried pieces or tots, but it doesn’t matter. One of my policies in life is that adding fries potatoes to any foodstuff is always the correct decision. In a burrito, it helps to have that crunch to switch up textures as you eat. The Taco Bell tortilla is not great. It’s thick and chewy, but those qualities also mean it should be sturdy enough to hold everything together.

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The other prominent ingredient in the first few bites seemed like a bacon cheese sauce. There’s a chance it was just bacon pieces and queso (which I found out afterwards when researching the ingredients), but I want to believe it was one ingredient. I like queso and thought it complemented the steak well, when I eventually got to the steak, that is.

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The burrito suffered from poor construction. I made it 1/3 of the way through getting any steak. Seeing the ads, I knew XL meant a bigger burrito, but also should mean more steak, which didn’t seem to be case.

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When I finally reached the steak, I was surprised at how tender it was. I always hesitate when ordering steak burritos because if the meat is too chewy or difficult to bite, then it’s difficult to get just a bite of steak, as opposed to a whole piece. It goes without saying that I was expecting hard and chewy pieces. The steak was decently spiced I think. I twas hard to isolate alone because of the sauce throughout the burrito. One nit pick: the steak pieces were pretty small. The pieces were small enough that it almost didn’t seem like I was eating steak. Soon after I encountered the steak, I reached a sour cream cache in the middle of the burrito. I’m not a fan of sour cream in general and don’t think it helped the burrito.

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Taken as a whole, the burrito was extremely messy and saucy. At the halfway point, the burrito started falling apart. It seems the tortilla wasn’t as study as I thought. Combining all the ingredients, there were some good bites here. Anything steak heavy was tasty and I applaud the use of fried potato, rather than rice, as the burrito filler. The bacon, when not a featured bite, fell into the background and seemed to just be there so they could advertise that the burrito had bacon on it. Maybe if it had more of a smokey flavor that would have been good for background.

The XL Steakhouse Burrito was filling. While on the pricey side for Taco Bell, it was a substantial meal. The fact that I’m leading off with that point is not a great sign though. I felt like the burrito was less than the sum of its parts. The bites without steak, of which there were many thanks to uneven ingredient distribution, just didn’t have strong enough taste, and too much of the heavy lifting was left to the sour cream. As I write this, the XL Steakhouse Burrito isn’t currently on the menu, so no one can actually order it right now, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it as anything other than a filling meal.

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The paradox of introducing a new base ingredient in the implication that the previous incarnation was somehow less than. (And how’s that for an opening sentence on a blog about fast food?) Was it not healthy? Maybe it was full of additives? Or not properly seasoned? Regardless of the reason for replacing the old food, some credit should be given to a restaurant which is looking for ways to improve their core products.

This, of course, brings us to Wendy’s “new” Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The new is in quotes because the sandwich debuted in October 2016 and I ate in in November when it was actually new, as opposed to July 2017 when Wendy’s has already begin rolling out new products based around the grilled chicken (R.I.P. Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, we hardly knew ye). My opinion and unscientific polling indicate that Wendy’s for whatever reason(s) (probably the salad bar that I haven’t seen in 10+ years), is considered the healthiest of the bigger fast food chains, so their grilled chicken sandwich is more important that, say, Burger King’s.

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Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich “is a juicy, all-white meat chicken breast fillet, marinated in a blend of herbs, topped with a smoky honey mustard, vibrant spring mix and fresh-cut tomato, all served on a toasted, multigrain bun.” It’s priced at $4.29 for the sandwich and $7.29 for a combo with medium fries and soda.

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As a note, I ate the Taco Salad first, but this sandwich was still hot when I ate it. Taking the sandwich out of its wrapper, it did smell like real chicken. To be clear, I didn’t put my nose directly up against the sandwich, but it had a strong aroma. As I looked at the sandwich before eating, it appeared to suffer from poor sandwich construction, like everything else at Wendy’s. I pulled up the top bun to see the insides. The lettuce looked crisp and fresh, but it also protruded enough from the bun as to make picking up the sandwich slightly difficult. It has also just dawned on me that I received regular iceberg lettuce and not the spring mix as advertised. Either they made a change after I ate it, or I wasn’t given the proper toppings. I also didn’t initially find a tomato, which struck me as an odd choice. Of course, as we’ll soon discover, a tiny one was added, but it was hidden by the giant lettuce.

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My first bite, by design, was only chicken. It tasted well seasoned, my guess is that lemon pepper features prominently in their spice mix. As good as it tasted, the texture of the chicken was a problem. The texture was soft and off-putting. I ate before noon, so it’s doubtful the chicken sat in a holding tray for very long, if it was cooked that morning, and I’ll give this location the benefit of the doubt that the chicken wasn’t originally cooked the night before and then served to me the next day. But discounting those two possibilities leaves an extremely unfavorable impression of the chicken.

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As I ate the components together, the lemony flavor from the chicken stuck out. It combined with the sweetness of the honey mustard, to produce what is probably a good taste if you like honey mustard. But I don’t, so the sweetness didn’t do anything for me. If it had been replaced with some barbecue, or hot sauce or even a flavored mayo I would have much preferred the sandwich.

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The multigrain bun didn’t have any special taste beyond having grains sprinkled on top.. Unlike most specialty fast food bun, this was fine, without any weird taste, and it fit the “healthier” theme of a grilled chicken sandwich.

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Taking everything into account, the sandwich felt plain and repetitive in taste, which is a common weakness for grilled, white meat chicken. There was no real depth or variation of flavor. I tasted lemon and sugar in every bite.

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The experience was made worse by the sandwich falling apart as I ate it, because there was too much honey mustard. The plus of the sandwich disintegrating was my discovery of the tomato hiding underneath the lettuce. Unfortunately, it was too tiny to make any difference in texture or flavor in the sandwich.

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One compliment I can definitely give Wendy’s is that they did not skimp on the chicken portion. It was substantial. The large chicken breast give the sandwich heft, and made it filling, even without eating a Taco Salad. Unfortunately, it’s a big piece of chicken on a substandard sandwich. The lemon taste was too much. The chicken needed more salt to balance the lemon, and maybe a little more black pepper, or a spicy sauce. The honey mustard was too sweet and there was too much of it. It was literally dripping out of the sandwich.

While I applaud the effort, I just don’t see myself ordering the regular Grilled Chicken Sandwich again, unless they make some tweaks. As they add variations to the menu, I’m sure I’ll come across it again and check to see if they solved the seasoning and texturally issues, but I don’t need the honey mustard overload again.