Archives for posts with tag: Steak

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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Moving on to the Part II of the Taco Bell Cheesy Core Burrito Series, now we’re focused on the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito (see the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito review here). Pricing is the same for the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito as it is for the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito: $2.29 (ground beef), $3.09 (chicken), and $3.29 (steak). It can also be ordered in a box for $6.39 and comes with a Doritos Locos Taco, a crunchy taco and a soda. To make the comparison easier, I also selected the ground beef option for this offering.

I went to Taco Bell’s site to get the official description, but the page has already been taken down, so perhaps they have already moved on from the Cheesy Core Burrito series. I’ll focus on the ingredients which made an impression, which should hit everything important.

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The first impression upon picking up the burrito was its heaviness, similar to the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito. My first few bites were heavy on the seasoned beef, which was a nice departure from the other burrito. I got a few hints of jalapeño in those bites. I wouldn’t describe it initially as spicy, but just the taste of the pepper itself. I finally grabbed a jalapeño to taste it on its own, and it was a typical pickled jalapeño that you can find in any supermarket. If you like jalapeño peppers or eaten basic stadium nachos before, you know what these taste like. I was a little disappointed, but I’m not sure why I was hoping for fresh jalapeño peppers at Taco Bell. The only textural difference in the burrito came from these jalapeños. I wouldn’t call them crunchy, but there was some bite to them.

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As I continued eating, I realized this burrito is pretty spicy. I never felt like any bites were too hot for my palate, but eating a bunch of pickled jalapeños in one sitting will raise your temperature a few degrees, so the burrito definitely delivered on its spicy promise. When I put down the burrito to jot down some notes, I actually felt a little flush and needed my drink to cool off.

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Unfortunately for the Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito, any bites which didn’t include either beef or jalapeño pepper was quite bland. It seems like the rice and cheese should be the same as in the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito, but they didn’t really have a taste. Maybe the spice from the jalapeños masked it? Luckily, the ingredient coverage on this particular burrito was good, so I didn’t get too many of those bland bites. I also didn’t really have any bites that were only tortilla.

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One problem, which the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito also suffered from, was that the ingredients weren’t really blended together, and I think this is a problem with the basic concept of what they’re selling. By wrapping the tortilla to create this cheesy core, it pretty much divides the burrito. When eating, I can have a cheese and rice bite, or a cheese and meat bite. Bites containing every ingredient were rare. Though they were good, I had way too many bland cheese and rice bites.

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The Spicy Cheesy Core Burrito was fine. I know that’s not much of a conclusion, but I don’t have too much to say about it. When everything came together, I thought it was good, but that didn’t happen often enough. It also greatly suffered in comparison with the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito, which I ate right before. The chips were a big difference and I really liked eating that one more. If you really want spiciness, then I’d just order the Crunchy Cheesy Core Burrito and get some hot sauce on it. Maybe sneak in some pickled jalapeño in your pocket if you’re feeling particularly frisky.

 

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.

Before we begin on this adventure, a quick note. This blog is a labor of love and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. With that being said, I’m also not opposed to people sharing it via tweets, Facebook, reblogs, etc. I try to keep my Facebook plugs to a minimum (once a month!), but more traffic is nice! Anyway, back to business.

Day One's Bounty

Day One’s Bounty

Taco Bell has entered the breakfast game. I’m not entirely certain how anticipation reached a fever pitch for this, but here we are. Taco Bell does well with innovation (seriously those Doritos tacos), and I think people were curious what Taco Bell came up with. Looking at the opening menu choices, they mainly played it safe outside of the Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap, but we’ll see how things change if this foray is successful.

I made it my mission to eat everything on the breakfast menu and report back here. Originally, my plan was to do this in three evenly spaced trips. Then I ordered half the menu in a pitch of excitement on my first trip. Oh well, a boy’s gotta eat AND breakfast is the most important meal of the day! One further note: these reviews are likely to be shorter than normal, because many of the components here are going to be the same: bacon/sausage, egg, and cheese. I’ll try and focus more on how flavors combine as opposed to telling you what eggs taste like six posts in a row. Without further ado, here is the first entry in Taco Bell breakfast week.

Exterior shot

Exterior shot

Smaller than I thought

Smaller than I thought

Upon first glance, I was surprised the Steak & Egg Burrito was so small. I’m not sure exactly what I anticipated, but I didn’t expected it would only be slightly larger than a regular soft taco. I got the meal, which comes with a hashbrown or two Cinnabon Delights, and a drink, which can be a coffee, medium soda, or orange juice. The juice cost $0.20 extra and was tiny. Next time I‘ll just get a soda. The total cost of the meal was $4.69. Not a great value, especially when compared to the other items on the breakfast menu, but also not terrible.

Steak

Steak

Taco Bell touts the Steak & Egg Burrito as “fluffy scrambled eggs, lots of warm melted cheddar cheese and marinated, premium thick cut steak, all wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla.” This was the first item I ate on my visit, and my first impression: this tastes like breakfast!!! Sorry. The first bite got some eggs, cheese and tortilla. Like a normal breakfast burrito. It was good. On my second bite, I got some steak, and this was still really good. The steak isn’t the choicest meat ever (this is Taco Bell after all), but I liked the flavor (think normal Mexican spices like cumin and cayenne). Most importantly, it wasn’t chewy. I hate eating fatty chewy steak, which seems to be the norm at most fast food establishments (*cough*Chipotle*cough*). Think of the texture here as that of beef in canned soup, just with some actual flavor. When I tasted the eggs on their own, they were good. I doubt that they’re scrambling eggs on site, but for something that’s likely dehydrated, they actually tasted eggy. They had a nice firm texture and weren’t watery. That’s about the best one could ask for.

Burrito Guts

Burrito Guts

When eating this, I was struck by how evenly distributed the ingredients were. This is something I’ve harped on in the past (including at Taco Bell), but it seemed like every bite contained all the ingredients. Thank you random Taco Bell employee who put some care into making this correctly. It was appreciated.

Well distributed innards

Well distributed innards

Now, onto the odd part of the experience. About halfway through, I realized that I liked the burrito, but felt like it needed some sort of sauce to tie everything together. So I got a packet of fire sauce, and it really contributed to the experience. As someone who likes adding hot sauce to eggs, this was a great combo, and I think anyone else who does the same would like this addition. So I did this until I reached the bottom quarter, and found a sauce. There’s no advertised sauce for this burrito, which was strange. I guessed that it tasted like a creamy chipotle, but based on the way it looked and examining the Taco Bell menu, I think it was the zesty Pepper Jack sauce they put on the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. I liked the sauce. It served the same purpose as the fire sauce by adding some spice and wetness, but I’m not sure if it was there on purpose, or if the kitchen is still working out some kinks with making the breakfast items.

Fire Sauce!

Fire Sauce!

I’m giving this a qualified recommendation. It is good on its own, but I think the addition of a spicy sauce really takes it to another level. Whether you use Fire, Mild, or you accidentally get some Zesty Pepper Jack, those will all add to the experience. There is an option to order it Fresco style, which would replace the cheese with pico de gallo, but I wouldn’t want to dump the cheese.  A breakfast burrito should contain cheese. This was also more expensive than the regular breakfast burrito, which is offered with sausage or bacon, instead of steak. I need to try those to determine whether steak is worth the extra price.