Taco Bell is here. Alex Casey, Madeleine Chapman, and Alice Webb-Liddall give the first review.
There’s nothing more American than drinking a frozen margarita out of a plastic cup with a comically large straw. And that means America has come to West Auckland.
New Zealand’s first-ever Taco Bell opens tomorrow at New Lynn’s Brickworks in LynnMall. I (Mad Chapman) have had Taco Bell once before, in Las Vegas after drinking a yard glass of strawberry daiquiri. My memory of the experience is limited but I do recall thinking that Taco Bell must’ve been specially designed to absorb alcohol.
After attending the VIP early opening today, my stance hasn’t changed, and that’s a good thing.
Taco Bell’s strong suit in the US has always been its price point. It’s almost incomprehensible how much food can be purchased for so little money. At the New Zealand store, the price point isn’t comically low but it’s still a lot cheaper than the other Mexican-style fast food.
While introducing the menu, Restaurant Brands CEO Russel Creedy said “the tacos I had [here] were the best I’ve had in the world”. OK, I will die on the defending-KFC-against-fancy-chicken hill, but come on. No one is going to Taco Bell expecting the best tacos in the world.
He also said, “I love guacamole. Nacho chips and guacamole? Just great.” You can’t argue with that.
Here’s what we ate, how much it costs, and whether (in our opinion) it’s worth it.
Nacho chips Not much to say. It’s hard to do a nacho chip wrong. Crunchy, fresh, coated in “Mexican seasoning”.
Worth it? Yes.
Guacamole There was a lot of high praise floating around about the guacamole. Considering how good a fresh avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper is, I was expecting big things. It was just fine.
Worth it? Not really.
Nacho cheese sauce I laugh every time I see melted orange goo and hear Americans call it cheese. It’s not cheese. And yet as soon as I started eating it, I couldn’t stop.
Worth it? Yes. It is objectively a gross concept but yes.
Fiesta salsa Extraordinary amount of onion and slightly slimy coriander. An offering of freshness next to a vat of hot melted cheese but let’s not pretend we are trying to be balanced here.
Worth it? If you are Shrek, then yes.
Frozen margarita You read that correctly. They serve alcohol at Taco Bell. More specifically, they serve beer and frozen margaritas. The marg was delicious. I had two alongside the pile of food I ate and now I’m typing this with my eyes closed.
Worth it? Yes, but it comes in very wasteful plastic. Reusable cups exist!
Crunchy taco supreme ($4.50 each or $12.49 for a two-taco combo) The crunchy taco supreme is the staple of Taco Bell. The cheeseburger, if you will. And it’s as simple. Mince, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream is the entirety of the taco. Like literally what you make budget-style at home with Old El Paso taco shells. It was yum, and Alice Webb-Liddall can confirm that the vegetarian option was also yum. Alex Casey noted that the taco shell itself was cold, which felt weird with the hot mince. But ultimately it was the sauce that carried it over the line. Each table also has mild sauce and hot sauce sachets. The hot sauce goes well with the crunchy taco supreme.
Worth it? Yeah.
Cheesy gordita crunch ($6.99 or $10.49 for a combo) This was listed as a must-have and we all still don’t know exactly what it is. It was a hard-shell taco (like the supreme) but the taco was wrapped in a soft flatbread. And it had a lot of cheese. It was nice, and the sauce was good, but the random textures was jarring. There’s a reason chip sandwiches (crunchy and bread) are only made at home.
Worth it? Nah.
Grilled stuft burrito ($8.99 or $12.48 for a combo) It’s a no from Alex Casey. The pork was too overpowering and looked like tuna. I personally didn’t mind it. I tend to think burritos are always too stuffed (don’t know why Taco Bell spells it “stuft”) and this version is a bit more dainty. Not so much rice action and again, a lot going on with the sauce.
Worth it? Sure.
Chicken quesadilla ($6.99 or $10.49 for a combo) The best item on the menu. Spread some guacamole on it with one of your nacho chips (sustainable), add some of the hot sauce on the table, and bond apple tithe, you’ve got yourself a meal.
Worth it? Absolutely.
Cinnamon twists ($2.50) In a world where Lil Orbit’s cinnamon doughnuts exist, these don’t stand a chance.
Worth it? Nah.
Chocodilla ($2.50) Chocolate quesadilla. We daren’t try one after eating as much as we already had, but this is crazy. To be honest, I’d probably love it. It’s only $2.50, might as well give it a go I reckon.
Worth it? It’s so funny, yes.
There’s a kiosk there that lets you choose the music to play for everyone to listen. It’ll absolutely be hijacked by people playing the worst music and I can’t wait for the news reports of people having one outs over a Backstreet Boys song.
There’s a literal bell in Taco Bell. It’s by the entrance and diners are encouraged to ring it when they’ve enjoyed the food and or service. Be warned, it’s huge, and it’s not a heavy ringer. You’re gonna have to do the work. I suspect not a single adult will ring it. But Alex had fun with it.
Is Taco Bell worth it overall? For the frozen margaritas alone, you gotta try it at least once.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the day's best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.