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Restaurant review: Taco Bell proves it can do first meal as well as fourth

The waffle taco with sausage, one item on Taco Bell's breakfast menu which debuted March 27. Credit: Jacob Hollar / Lantern reporter

The waffle taco with sausage, one item on Taco Bell’s breakfast menu which debuted March 27.
Credit: Jacob Hollar / Lantern reporter

It was 8 a.m. on a Wednesday and I was sitting in a Taco Bell.

Normally, that’s not a good beginning to a story: For many, Taco Bell evokes imagery of drunks, fresh off their orgiastic tour of the local bars, sloppily devouring Cheesy Gordita Crunches at 4 a.m.

But I was brought to the Taco Bell near South Campus at 1525 N. High St. that morning by something a bit more wholesome, and the company is hoping mornings at Taco Bell will soon become more mainstream.

Starting Thursday, Taco Bell stores around the country began serving breakfast “with a Taco Bell twist,” said Will Peterson, the area coach for a Taco Bell franchise in Columbus and my personal guide to their breakfast menu.

Of the several items on the new menu — each of which is recommended to be priced in the standard Taco Bell price range of under $3 — I sampled the two items Peterson expects to be bestsellers: The waffle taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap, both served with bacon or sausage.

Full disclosure: I was not charged for the food.

I’ve heard it said before that Taco Bell’s entire menu is just seven basic ingredients configured in different ways. While that might be a hyperbole, the same can be said of their breakfast menu — although it can also be said of most fast food breakfasts.

There are eggs, there is bacon, there is sausage, there is syrup — ingredient-wise, Taco Bell’s breakfast is the same as most.

But they shaped their ingredients into tacos and burritos and Crunchwraps, so it’s new and exciting.

The waffle taco is what it sounds like: A taco-shaped waffle stuffed with eggs, cheese and your breakfast meat of choice. It tastes fine, but its portability is limited — the syrup, vital companion to an otherwise nondescript waffle, must be poured on by the customer.

If I were sitting down, I wouldn’t mind a little DIY food prep. But breakfast is often eaten on the go, and the sticky mess that is syrup prohibits properly enjoying a waffle taco en route.

For research purposes, I tried eating these items both in the store and while driving, so as to emulate the conditions under which they might be consumed. The result: There is syrup on my jeans.

Still, it wasn’t bad — not great, either, but not bad.

The A.M. Crunchwrap, on the other hand, was actually good.

Again, the premise is simple: Like the regular Crunchwrap, it’s a hexagonally-folded tortilla filled with Tex-Mex goodness. Instead of a tostada inside of a tortilla, however, it’s hash browns and a spicy jalapeno sauce, with eggs and your choice of breakfast meat stuffed in there too.

More so than the lazy idea of shaping a breakfast sandwich into a taco, the A.M. Crunchwrap is an interesting offering that feels distinct from the breakfast offerings of Taco Bell’s competitors.

That could be good or bad: The traditional offerings are working for those already in the fast-food breakfast game, like McDonald’s, and Taco Bell knows it.

“Right now, McDonald’s has breakfast on lock,” Peterson said.

Taco Bell seems to be mostly for eats after-midnight.

“When (people) think Taco Bell, they think late night,” he said. “(At 4 a.m.), the bars are closing and we’re still here.”

Increasingly, the bell’s entry into the fast-food breakfast sphere is being billed as a battle against the golden arches’ supposed dominance.

Taco Bell recently launched an ad campaign featuring several men from around the country who happened to be named “Ronald McDonald” endorsing the new breakfast menu.

The ad seems to have been well received, with a glowing review in “Forbes” and has been mentioned in other notable publications like USA TODAY and The Los Angeles Times.

The success of ads like this, along with Taco Bell’s social media presence, are part of the reason why Peterson thinks Taco Bell won’t struggle with expanding into the breakfast market.

“Taco Bell has really gotten around social media,” he said. “A lot of buzz has been generated.”

Still, Taco Bell has tried offering breakfast twice before with little success, he said.

They’re hoping the third time, which has “been in the pipeline for the past year and a half,” will be the charm, he said.

But as part of a multi-billion dollar industry, even managing a fraction of the success McDonald’s has seen in the fast-food breakfast market would be profitable for Taco Bell, Peterson said.

And apparently, Taco Bell thinks breakfast is what the people want.

“Our customers have asked us to do breakfast because there’s a sea of sameness in breakfast sandwiches,” Brian Niccol, president of Taco Bell, was quoted as saying in USA TODAY.

Peterson said Wednesday he had not heard of plans for the supposedly customer-solicited foray into breakfast to include a breakfast version of the company’s Doritos Locos tacos. Color me disappointed.

Breakfast at Taco Bell will generally begin at 7 a.m. and last until 11 a.m., but hours can vary from store to store.

One comment

  1. I became ill in May 2014 with diarrhea, vomit not too long after eating 1/2 of a beef taco that was on the before 5:00 pm special. I threw the other half of the taco and the other taco I had bought because it tasted awful, like if it was contaminated with something. Hold and behold by the next day on Sunday all my large joints became swollen like an elephant. I went to my regular doctor who prescribed some anti biotics and anti inflammatory medicine and referred to a rheumatologist located at St. Anthony’s Hospital Medical Center.

    My appointment was scheduled for 3 weeks, but I called the rheumatologist office crying for the pain I was feeling in every large joint of my body and he worked me in approximately 4 days after (don’t remember exactly). I was diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis caused by food poisoning from Taco Bell. It was later in the month of May 2014 that I found out of the e-coli outbreak. At the time of my illness, neither doctor did the tests, until later when I told the rheumatologist that could be possibly e – coli. The doctor said I probably got it out of my system, and that was not the case cause each ankle, left knee, left wrist and left elbow were swollen like an elephant and I could not walk without screaming pain.

    Nether the less, I was a victim of e-coli poisoning from Taco Bell on 4703 66th Street North in Kenneth City, Florida and I will never go there again. It took me 3 months to recover taking a whole bunch of holistic herbs, alternative medicines, anti biotics, anti inflammatory. I thought I was on my death bed and even the Rheumatologist was surprise at seeing such severe case but I was not hospitalized cause I had a dog at home to take care and feed, but I should have been.

    I even informed the health department in Pinellas County that monitors food in Restaurants. These bastards failed to even call me and follow up on my case. Have the receipt from Taco Bell, the medical records of when I went to my primary doctor and the rheumatologist all related to the food poisoning from Taco Bell…….. Zinch, Pinellas County did nothing to investigate my case eventhough they took my complaint by phone.

    NEVER, NEVER, NEVER go to Taco Bell as they have a history of e-coli poisoning and poisoning of their customers. Stay AWAY from Taco Bell.

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