So is this going to be a thing now? Fritos? Are Fritos the next pomegranate? Sonic has had their Frito Chili Cheese Wrap on the menu for as long as I have been going there, but then they upped the ante with their Sonic Tex Mex Footlong Quarter Pound Coney. Now Taco Bell has hopped on the Frito bandwagon with their new Beefy Crunch Burrito. I’ll let Taco Bell explain:
“Layers of seasoned ground beef, rice, warm nacho cheese sauce, reduced fat sour cream and Flamin’ Hot Fritos wrapped in a warm, flour tortilla.”
Classic Taco Bell move. The first four ingredients in this description should sound familiar because they’re in every other Taco Bell menu item, ever. But hey – Fritos! Flamin’ Hot Fritos, no less. Frito-Lay has Flaminized many of their products. I am quite fond of Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Limon, but they stain your fingers for a whole day, announcing your snacking habits to the world. I also once powered through a whole bag of Flamin’ Hot Funyuns, but in my defense, I was drunk.
So now we’ve got snack food inside fast food. I’m reminded once again of Sonic and their Ched R Pepper SuperSONIC Cheeseburger, which stuck jalapeño poppers inside a burger. I like where this is going. Funyuns replacing real onions on a McDonald’s burger. Jack in the Box Ultimate Jack Link Beef Jerky Grilled Cheese Sandwich. KFC chicken breaded with crushed Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch. Burger King’s new Ranch Corn Nuts Bacon Cheeseburger.
Oh yeah. This is going all the right places.
Flamin’ Hot Fritos may make the Crunchy Beef Burrito Taco Bell’s most caliente menu item, which is sad because they have a whole Volcano menu devoted to items that are supposed to make your brain blow out the back of your head with the heat but instead just make you wish you had a can of Spicy Hot V8 on hand. It’s no good when you want a beverage to make your mouth burn instead of cool it off.
With pretty much nowhere to go but up in my mind, let’s see what this bitch can deliver.
Okay, so here’s the rub: The Beefy Crunch Burrito has the word “crunch” in its name. But anyone with half a brain would know that Fritos don’t stand a chance when they’re smothered in nacho cheese sauce and reduced fat sour cream. “Kelley,” you could scream to me in the comments section, “you can’t fault the Fritos for being soggy when you drive all the way home to eat! Eat inside the Taco Bell! You’re being unfair to the Beefy Crunch Burrito when you complain that the Fritos were soggy!”
Yes, the Fritos were soggy. No, I didn’t eat it inside the restaurant. I drove through the drive-thru and took my food home, to eat and photograph in the privacy of my own domicile. Millions of people do that, every day. That’s why we eat fast food. That’s why the drive-thru was invented. Well, that and for people who eat in their cars, but that’s something I just don’t do. Eyes on the road! Hands at ten and two! Didn’t you learn anything in driver’s ed?
I believe fast food companies should prepare for these kinds of situations, and design menu items appropriately. What I’m trying to say here is, don’t blame me, blame Taco Bell. Don’t put something that’s supposed to be crunchy in with a bunch of stuff that will turn it to mush in ten seconds. It’s just going to end poorly.
Rant aside, there was another problem with the Beefy Crunch Burrito. I’ll accept snack foods in my fast food – I just raved about the possibilities a few paragraphs ago – but I’m not going to give them a free pass when it doesn’t work out. And the Beefy Crunch Burrito didn’t. All the regular players got along fine: seasoned beef shook hands with nacho cheese, sour cream said hi to the rice, and warm flour tortilla invited everyone in for a group hug. Then Flamin’ Hot Fritos invited itself over and everyone got uncomfortable. The pronounced and very recognizable corn chip flavor just seemed out of place with everything else, jarring my taste buds and overwhelming all the other flavors. The best word to describe it would be “discordant”. Corn chips just didn’t belong. It felt like I was eating a corn chip burrito with some other stuff thrown in.
As for the Flamin’ Hot portion, I’ll admit, they did give off a little heat. I think it was diluted from the nacho cheese and sour cream, because it wasn’t quite as hot as the Flamin Hot chips themselves. I wished it had been super hot; then maybe it would have drowned out the corn chip taste a bit.
Beefy Crunch Burrito really let me down. It’s not often that I outright dislike a Taco Bell product, but here we are. Points are docked for soggy Fritos, but that’s a design flaw. The real problem is that overpowering corn chip taste that drowns everything else out and really doesn’t belong. Taco Bell isn’t really marketing it as a “blow your brains out spicy” item, but even so, there was very little heat. The Beefy Crunch Burrito is a mess; that said, I still encourage fast food companies to start stuffing snacks into their menu items. Bring on the crazy!
(Update: I decided to bust this down to a score of 1.5 from 2 since it really wasn’t that close to average.)