Monday, November 09, 2015

Breakfast at Taco Bell Cantina

Yeah, I went back to Taco Bell.  For breakfast no less.

Remember a few years ago, when Taco Bell did a promotion that if anyone stole a base during the World Series, they'd give away free Doritos Locos Tacos?  Well, that was my first time ever having Taco Bell.  I uh, wasn't impressed.  I didn't return.  Until now.

Why?  Because Taco Bell did it again, only this year, they offered up free breakfast.  Since I can't resist a chance to try silly freebies like this, you know I eagerly headed off to Taco Bell the morning of the promotion.

The Space

Cantina Seating.
But I didn't head to just any Taco Bell.  Nope.  I went to the fancy new Taco Bell Cantina in Soma.

Still obviously a Taco Bell, but, the seating is certainly upgraded.  They even have a big communal table in the middle.  So hip.
Open Kitchen.
The menu is still standard Taco Bell, and the kitchen I'm sure is a similar set up, but at the Cantina the kitchen is open, so you can watch orders being assembled, more like being in a real taqueria.

I hear that they do have some additional menu items, mostly sharable appetizers.
Branded Soda Machine.
The soda machine is also a fancy cantina branded one.

But besides that, it is Taco Bell.  You order a register, you wait for your number to be called.  Or, if you are fancy, you order online first.

Eventually this location is supposed to serve beer, wine, and sangria, but when I visited they still had a petition near the register to sign to convince someone to let them.


Anyway, the food.  So yes, Taco Bell serves breakfast (and has for about a year and a half).

You can likely guess most of the menu, different spins of breakfast burritos.  Much like the lunch/dinner menu, the breakfast menu reads like a mis-mash of a few different ingredients, just assembled differently.  The basic building blocks are scrambled eggs, bacon/sausage/steak, hashbrowns, and cheese.

The simplest option is the "Cheesy Burrito", stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice of meat.  The "Grilled Breakfast Burrito" seems to be a small step up, offering nacho cheese sauce instead of shredded cheddar cheese.  I imagine it is also grilled, per the name, but they photos don't look it.  Next up is the "Grilled Breakfast Burrito Country", with scrambled eggs, potatoes, southern gravy, and your choice of protein.  Going bigger still is the "Grand Scrambler", with scrambled egg, cheese and nacho cheese sauce, potatoes, pico de gallo, sour cream, and your choice of protein.

If you prefer tacos over burritos, go for the "Biscuit Taco", a fluffy taco shell, filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, and your choice of meat.  Or the "Sausage & Cheese Biscuit Taco", with just a sausage patty and cheese, sans egg.  The final taco offering is an "A.M. Grilled Taco", a traditional flour tortilla, stuffed with, you guessed it, scrambled egg, cheese, and your choice of meat.  It really looks more like a quesadilla though.

The last section of the breakfast menu is devoted to the most unique item: the "A.M. Crunchwrap".  These are full burrito size flour tortillas filled with not just scrambled eggs, cheese, and your protein choice inside, but also a full hash brown patty and sauce.  And they aren't just folded over, they are formed into a hex shape, and then grilled.  It is the Crunchwraps that Taco Bell was giving away this time.

You can get your breakfast sandwich as a combo with a drink and either hashbrowns or little Cinnamon Delights (fried dough balls, stuffed with icing, coated in cinnamon and sugar).  The sides are also available a la carte.
I ordered my Crunchwrap, and stepped back to watch it be assembled.  The staff moved efficiently, with one person adding eggs and proteins, the next putting on the correct sauces and folding them up, and the final person put them into the press to be grilled.

Although there was a line, and mine was made to order, it still only took <3 minutes before my number was called out, and my piping hot bag was handed over.  Fast food man, it really is fast.
A.M. Crunchwrap.  $2.89.
So, for the free item, I could select a Crunchwrap.  The standard offering comes with scrambled egg, cheese, bacon, a full hash brown, and creamy jalapeño sauce.  You can sub out the bacon for a sausage patty free of charge, or opt for steak for a slight price increase.

The other Crunchwraps on the menu still have the base of scrambled eggs, cheese, and hashbrown, but the "Country" version uses southern gravy instead of creamy jalapeño sauce and defaults to a sausage patty, and the "California" version throws in some guac and pico de gallo.

I didn't realize the other versions were included in the promo, and hadn't looked them up, so I had no idea what was in them (and the signs at the Taco Bell itself don't actually say).  So, I opted for the regular Crunchwrap.

Except ... I don't really like eggs, even good eggs, and I've had enough fast food eggs at this point to know better than to even try (like the flavorless rubbery eggs in the otherwise good Starbucks breakfast sandwiches)  So, I opted for no egg, just like I did at Panera.

The standard version uses bacon, but  I wasn't really interested in the greasy little bacon crumbles they use for bacon, so went for the sausage patty.  This substitution was free of charge.  I was pleasantly surprised by the sausage patty at Starbucks (not so much at Panera), so I though it stood a chance here.

So, my order: Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap, no egg.

I pulled it out of the bag, and was a little surprised to see that it did indeed match the photo I had seen online.  Hex shaped, grilled.  Hmm.

It was really hot, clearly fresh from the grill press.  The outside was crispy from the contact points.  Hmm, not bad, actually.  I continued.
Sausage A.M. Crunchwrap, no egg: inside.
Once I took a few bites from the edge to get past the plain tortilla, I got to the insides.

I took a few bites of it all together, rather ... enjoying it.  This thing wasn't bad, actually.

The hashbrown was indeed a full patty.  It wasn't too greasy or oily.  Sure, it was a frozen hashbrown, but I grew up on these (the kind you throw into a toaster?  I used to slather them with ketchup or syrup and be quite satisfied).

The sausage however wasn't great.  When it was combined with everything else it was fine, but on its own, it was obvious that it was rather rubbery and flimsy, and didn't taste particularly good.  Not that I was expecting high quality at this price point, but the Starbucks one was considerably better.  

The cheese was basic shredded cheddar cheese, but it was nicely melted.  I would have liked more, as there really wasn't much.  Extra cheese is an option for customization, for a fee.

And lastly, the creamy jalapeño sauce.  I appreciated the creamy component, but, this just made no sense at breakfast for me.  It had a little kick, which was nice for some flavor, but, random mayo-y sauce wasn't really what I wanted.

After reading about the Country Crunchwrap, I do wish I had gone for that instead (sans egg of course).  It would have been the same as what I got, but with gravy instead of creamy jalapeño sauce, which just makes a lot more sense for breakfast to me.  Plus, mmm, sausage and gravy!

I obviously can't evaluate the egg, since I had it left out.  I did find the whole thing a bit lacking in flavor, but luckily they have a slew of different hot sauces and ketchup available, so I was able to slather mine in sauce and add whatever kick I wanted.  I saw most other diners doing the same.

So overall, it really wasn't bad.  It was freshly made.  I liked the crispy exterior.  The cheese was melty.  It was hot inside.  Hashbrowns are tasty.

Do I want another?  Well, no, but I was glad to give it a try.
Taco Bell Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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