The advertisements for Taco Bell's new Cantina Tacos really caught my eye: corn tortillas stuffed with slow-cooked pork, fresh cilantro and onions, wrapped in foil with a lime wedge. I mean, really? We are in the land of taquerias. Would anybody really rather eat Taco Bell then say...Ruchi's? Fast-food chain-restaurant marketing is simply amazing. I decided to try the Cantina Tacos.
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I stopped off at the Taco Bell on S. Shepherd and ordered three Cantina Tacos with carnitas to go. I then went to Laredo Taqueria on Washington and got three pork tacos to go. Each taco was about the same price, around a dollar and a quarter. Then I had lunch with a friend and we assessed the situation.
I was actually surprised that the Cantina Tacos kinda tasted like taqueria food. I think it was the fresh cilantro and lime. The Cantina Tacos were also double-wrapped with corn tortillas. I guess Taco Bell did its homework. Doubling up on tortillas is classic taqueria style. But the downfall of these tacos was that they still had a little bit of that Taco Bell taco-seasoning taste, and they were skimpy on the meat. My friend agreed.
The Laredo tacos were overflowing with meat. In fact, there wasn't enough tortilla to hold it in. The salsa that came with the tacos was homemade and fresh, and the seasoning on the tender pork was strong and spicy. There is just is no comparison when you put the two next to each other. Anything made on premises is going to beat out a food that was made a thousand miles away in a plant, then frozen, bagged and shipped on a truck.
But the final test would have to be a blind one. I took one of each taco to work to have my coworker, who eats at the taco truck Tierra Caliente every day, try them. I didn't tell him that one of the tacos was Taco Bell. I put both tacos in foil and put them in a brown paper bag. I waited till he ate both of them and then asked him if he could tell which one was Taco Bell. He was a little pissed that I'd tricked him into eating fast food -- he is one of those people who prides himself on not eating at places like Taco Bell -- but only after I told him one of the tacos was Taco Bell did he guess which one it was. Problem was, he didn't get the protein right. "It was the chicken one!"