Ranking Taco Bell's Breakfast Menu: A Savory Search for the Best Bites
Whilst ordering breakfast at my local Manhattan Taco Bell, a pre-Chipotlean Tex-Mex chain that is ubiquitous on game day commercials, Sylvester Stallone's Demolition Man, and highway rest stops, I notice that a member of staff starts to flip the overhead menus to display the lunch offerings. Despite it being morning time, I request them to flip them back to breakfast. As I wait, a man outside tugs on the locked restroom door for security and a cashier buzzes him in. Suddenly, a gentleman from one of the tables claims to have been an "O.O.G." or pre-original gangsta, causing a staffer to ask him to leave, but he refuses. Meanwhile, a documentary playing on the TV depicts Oakley-wearing border guards tearing cars apart to seize marijuana. It's not the most appetizing atmosphere for dining, with smells reminiscent of an H&M store, but I urge you to ignore the chaos and try Taco Bell's limited-time breakfast sandwich, the Quesalupa, allegedly available for only the next 15 weeks. It is one of the country's finest new breakfasts and even arguably the most innovative fast-food offering since McDonald's iconic McGriddle in the early 2000s.
While American Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants have been offering breakfast options for a while, Taco Bell only started serving it in 2014, a move to compete with McDonald's stronghold on the morning meal. The breakfast menu features classic burritos alongside inventive options such as the egg-stuffed Crunchwrap and infamous (and now discontinued) waffle tacos. What's most surprising, however, is the absence of usual breakfast items like pancakes, French toast, yogurt, granola, cereal, and fresh fruit. "We make bold food you can't get anywhere else," the Taco Bell website boasts, and it's true that no other fast-food chain takes as many culinary risks as they do. They embraced pop-culture nostalgia with items like tacos coated in Dorito dust and even Cap'n Crunch-flavored doughnut holes. If Taco Bell were a New York restaurant, they would be Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi.
I hope Taco Bell continues its success because their breakfast options are delicious by fast-food standards.
Taco Bell has upheld their reputation for pushing boundaries by serving up breakfast items that stand out from the usual morning fare. It's a bit surprising that they are focusing on culinary innovation during a time of day when people are more concerned with filling up quickly than experiencing bold new flavors. However, other restaurant groups, like the Major Food Group in New York, are also experimenting with breakfast offerings to boost their profits and explore gastronomic possibilities.
Don't assume that Taco Bell is following McDonald's lead with an all-day breakfast menu. Most of their breakfast items are only available until 11 a.m. or earlier depending on location. Despite this, their breakfast options have impressed critics and hungry patrons alike.
During my visits to Taco Bell, I found that the breakfast menu was only served by two staff members, an alarming staffing policy for a massive billion-dollar chain. Nonetheless, I hope their breakfast service succeeds because their food is quite good by fast-food standards. Here's what I recommend:
- Savory Breakfast Items:
Taco Bell takes an El Salvadorian delicacy, the pupusa, and transforms it into a taco shell stuffed with pepper jack cheese, scrambled eggs, smoky bacon, and spicy potato nuggets. The combination of two kinds of cheese gives this dish a unique scent that reminds me of the pungent cheese section at Dean & DeLuca. It's unlike anything you'd expect from a fast-food establishment.
Calories: 560. Fat: 34g. Sodium: 1160mg.
Breakfast Crunchwrap (Bacon)
Taco Bell's Breakfast Crunchwrap is a hexagonal quesadilla filled with eggs, cheese, bacon, and fried hash browns. This dish is a genius upgrade on the traditional breakfast sandwich with its crispy tortilla and rich flavor of caramelized potatoes.
Calories: 670. Fat: 42g. Sodium: 1300mg.
In conclusion, Taco Bell has shown their ability to shake up the fast-food breakfast scene with their innovative and tasty offerings.
The Cheesy Burrito (Bacon)
Step up your breakfast game with the Cheesy Burrito (Bacon), packed with double the eggs for a hearty start to your day. Unless, of course, you suffer from alektorophobia, a newfound fear of chickens, as hinted by Taco Bell's website. This flavorful creation is reminiscent of McDonald's breakfast burrito, but with a delectable twist of smoky bacon instead of questionable sausage bites. To take it up a notch, spice it up with hot sauce for an ultimate breakfast party. Verdict: A must-BUY. Calories: 490. Fat: 28g. Sodium: 1090mg.
Experience a potato explosion in your mouth with Taco Bell's Hash Browns, boasting an unparalleled crunchy texture and satisfying potato flavor. They might be the same as McDonald's hash browns, but this reviewer can confidently say these are much superior, with a crispiness that is consistent every time. Verdict: Definitely a BUY. Calories: 160. Fat: 12g. Sodium: 270mg.
A.M. Grilled Taco
The A.M. Grilled Taco might resemble a flattened grilled breakfast burrito, but the taste falls flat. With unmemorable flavorless eggs and a flattened texture akin to being run over by several cars on the Long Island Expressway, it's no match for the quesadilla. Even the Taco Bell website agrees that the quesadilla is a better alternative. Verdict: BUY only if you're in a pinch. Calories: 230. Fat: 14g. Sodium: 590mg.
Biscuit Taco, Two Ways
Taco Bell tries its hand at a Chinese-inspired steamed bun by stuffing eggs and bacon into a folded biscuit. However, Yum! Brands' creation falls short, with crumbly eggs spilling out and bacon poorly situated within the sandwich, making it difficult to get a bite of everything. Verdict: SELL. Calories: 380. Fat: 23g. Sodium: 860mg.
The Biscuit Taco with sausage and cheese fares slightly better in terms of structure, but unfortunately, the sausage tastes like it's been artificially flavored to an extreme. Verdict: SELL. Calories: 370. Fat: 23g. Sodium: 650mg.
Grande Scrambler Burrito
The Grande Scrambler Burrito might seem like a hearty meal with its blend of breakfast staples, but the beef tastes more like rehydrated jerky than anything else. This creation, also known as S.O.S. by the military, seems to have more in common with prison food than a satisfying breakfast. Verdict: SELL. Calories: 630. Fat: 30g. Sodium: 1460mg.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Indulge in the delectable goodness of warm, iced-filled donut holes that give the fancy New York City restaurants a run for their money, at a mere $1 for two bites. Taco Bell's ultimate tribute to street snacks has brought this delicious treat to the masses who want to enjoy an affordable, delicious dessert. To all the pastry chefs out there, move over chocolate lava cake, there's a new dessert in town! Verdict: BUY. Calories: 160. Fat: 9g. Sodium: 80mg.
Experience nostalgia and relive the past with Taco Bell's classic cinnamon twists made from fried wheat flour and cornmeal. The irresistible texture of these crunchy delights will make you forget all about those fancy desserts that fail to impress. Why even try to replicate this perfect taste? When it comes to cinnamon twists, Taco Bell truly reigns supreme. Verdict: BUY. Calories: 170. Fat: 6g. Sodium: 21mg.
Start Your Morning Right
While McDonald's emphasizes coffee as the go-to morning drink, Taco Bell takes a unique approach by promoting soda, even in the face of the anti-sugar movement sweeping the nation. Pair your Quesalupa combo with a 20-ounce Mountain Dew drink that contains a whopping 73 grams of sugar to truly kickstart your day. You can even go for the branded breakfast soda modeled by a young student, available only at Taco Bell.
Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze
If you're feeling adventurous, try out Taco Bell's Mountain Dew version of a movie theater Icee. The flavor profile of this drink, named "Baja Blast," is a mix of sugary, fruity goodness that pairs perfectly with the spicy Quesalupa. Native Americans have traditionally used yucca mohave extract, an ingredient found in the beverage that treats a variety of ailments, including rashes, rheumatism, and gonorrhea. So, if you're feeling brave, give it a try. Verdict: BUY (even if your dentist may not approve). Calories: 230. Sugar: 54g.
Mountain Dew Kickstart Orange Citrus
This drink is for those who want to start their day with a burst of energy. Mountain Dew's Kickstart Orange Citrus contains 5% real juice, and is packed with caffeine and vitamin C, making it a great choice for those looking to power through their day. However, with 25g of sugar, it's important to consume this in moderation. Verdict: SELL. Calories: 100. Sugar: 25g.
Tropicana Orange Juice
For those who prefer a classic morning drink, Taco Bell offers Tropicana orange juice that's rich in flavor and vitamin C. It's the perfect choice for those who want to enjoy a refreshing breakfast beverage without the added sugar of soda.
Taco Bell's fruit juice is reminiscent of McDonald's from-concentrate style, which is just as dreadful. Shockingly, the juice comes at a supplement of only 50 cents with a combo meal, impelling people to prefer soda instead over the real deal. Clever move, big soda. Their ploy is now both gastronomic and financial. Verdict: SELL. Calories: 140. Sugar: 28g.
Premium Hot Coffee
Fast-food chains tend to up their coffee game to compete with Starbucks and other similar establishments. However, calling Taco Bell's coffee "premium" is analogous to labeling a waste bag as gourmet. The "Rainforest coffee," as its moniker goes, is freshly made using a machine resembling a Keurig. Sadly, the product is characterized by the dusty, cardboard-like aroma reminiscent of an old attic that belonged to your grandparent. It might be minutely better than McDonald's version of coffee, but the drink is not worth the trouble. Your best bet is to opt for Mountain Dew instead. Verdict: SELL.
• Ranking McDonald's Breakfast Menu [E]• Comprehensive Breakfast Week Coverage [E]
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