The Great Gross-Off: Taco Bell’s Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito

tacobell[1]Taco Bell and I have a relationship that dates back to an infamous church youth group trip in the late ’80s, when I was living in the Chicago suburb of Joliet. On this particular road trip, I took the challenge on a dare that I could eat 10 tacos in one sitting — and surpassed the goal, packing in 14 tacos in about 20 minutes. The story became legendary with friends and family, accessorized with slanderous details of alleged gassy side effects that the other passengers were forced to endure thanks to my little stunt, for the entire van trip home, a charge which I continue to deny to this day.

In the years to follow, I’ve watched and wondered in silent amazement at the knack that Taco Bell has for continuously making new creations out of the same basic seven ingredients, and each time it tastes different somehow. How the hell do they do that?

As an underpaid working professional with no money in my 20s, I ate Taco Bell a lot. For five bucks, you could grab food for a couple of days and forget, for one brief moment, how bad you were getting screwed by the man.

My not-so-inner fast food junkie eventually branched out from the traditional tacos and burritos, first with the Mexican Pizza – two crisp shells packed with ground beef (is it really?) and beans, topped with pizza sauce and multiple cheeses, please hold the tomatoes. I discovered that 20something me could easily pack away two of those bad boys, and potentially a soft taco or two if I really wanted to kill my will to do anything for the rest of the day.

The Chalupa. Ah yes, one of the early times that I had that feeling that perhaps I might be leading myself towards eventual clogged arteries by the time I was 30. Because those shells can’t possibly be healthy, can they? They taste too damn good. Grab yourself a Nacho Cheese Chalupa, and you too might feel the feelings of pain and remorse after combining ground beef (still questioning this), nacho cheese sauce, and the previously mentioned potentially unhealthy chalupa shell.

The Crunch Wrap Supreme. This combines my love of the Mexican Pizza with my love of the Double Decker Taco Supreme into one unhealthy package that I nicknamed the “Taco Bell frisbee” because of the circular shape of this item, combined with the fact that I was really, really bored on the day that I first ordered this. I apparently fixed that boredom by naming my food. Mark this down as one of my early cries for help. (P.S. – these really suck as a leftover.)

And then the brilliance ended at Taco Bell HQ. Someone decided that it would be a good idea to inject potatoes into the list of magical ingredients for potential Taco Bell goodness. Now, while I can eat tubs and tubs of the standard Fiesta Potatoes from Taco Bell, I’ve discovered that they seem to taint every Taco Bell creation that incorporates them with the previously mentioned ground, um, beef, beans, or any other substance. Seriously, who looks at beans, beef, potatoes, eight packets of Fire Sauce, and says yum?

Taco Bell does, that’s who.

But now they’ve gone too far.

I was sitting at home watching the always brilliant Rescue Me on my DVR, fast-forwarding through commercials, when I saw it: The word “Bacon” was plastered on my television, and miles and miles of bacon-loaded pictorial goodness splashed across my screen, forcing me to dive for the remote and rewind to believe what I had just seen.

Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito.

Four words that should have made me say no. No way. No chance in hell.

Instead, I got in my car and drove two blocks over to the nearest Taco Bell location.

I placed an order for two of these potential gifts from God at $2.99 per burrito. That’s value in this time of alleged recession and financial struggle. Not. Thanks a lot, Taco Bell.

Upon arriving home, I sat down at the table and unwrapped the first burrito.

Here’s what they want you to believe that it looks like:

baconcheesypotato1.jpg

In reality, it actually looks closer to this:

baconcheesypotato2.jpg

No matter how carefully you unwrap one of these suckers, the visual fraud is very quickly unmasked.

On a side note, who are these people that get paid to set up the fast food glamour shot with every precious ingredient in its proper place, and do they get paid big bucks? More importantly, are they all obsessive-compulsives?

Now, let’s eat!

I had a quick debate on whether I should add my customary hot sauce, or experience it for the first time sans sauce, potentially as intended by the Taco Bell culinary craftsmen. “Screw ‘em, bring on the hot sauce,” was my quick assessment of the situation.

Digging in, I quickly wolfed down the first burrito. Tasting lots of ground beef (fine, I’ll call it beef with only minor snickering,) nacho cheese sauce, potatoes, etc. But I get to the end of burrito uno, and my first thought is that I didn’t taste a lot of bacon in this so-called “Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito.” Based on the name alone, this burrito should be bursting with bacon-loaded flavor, taste, and texture. Worse, as you would expect, they’ve gone the cheap route and provided bacon in the form of bits that may or may not even be real bacon.

I’m tasting potatoes and remembering how much I previously hated the inclusion of potatoes with previous Taco Bell burrito experiences. What the hell am I doing? I’m left with the complicated decision: Do I forge onward and eat the remaining Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito, part of my almost $6 two-burrito Taco Bell investment?

Who the hell spends $6 on two items at Taco Bell anyway? This asshole. That’s who.

I ended up eating about three quarters of the burrito before deciding to pitch the remaining portion. Interestingly enough, they seem to have taken all of the bacon bits that were missing from the first burrito and dumped them into the second burrito. In theory, this should make things better, but the whole experience feels beyond bland by the time I’m done eating.

Normally when I finish Taco Bell, I’ve got a feeling of satisfaction mixed with the feeling that I’ve done something horrible to my body. I don’t have that feeling of satisfaction here – instead, I just wish that I’d eaten something else.

Nutritionally, how does this bad boy stack up? Well, let’s take a look at the official full-disclosure rundown from Taco Bell’s site.

680 calories: While some of you are gasping at that number, some of my favorite things that are really bad for me are way over the 1,000 calorie mark.

70 milligrams of cholesterol: I kind of want to forget that I just read this, so that I can lie to my heart surgeon in 15 years.

57 grams of carbs: I’m assuming that that’s bad for most of you that are on whatever fad diet it is that you’re on. As the furthest thing from a “health nut,” I have no idea. I have learned from Popdose mainman Jeff Giles during recent conversations on Twitter that lasers don’t belong anywhere near your eyes. That really has no practical application here. Let’s move on.

36 total grams of fat: Cool! So when I am feeling regretful about that weight gain, I can pin a lot of that Vandross-esque fluctuation on the Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito, right where it belongs.

31 grams of protein: Here’s the good news folks: Forget everything you read previously, this sucker is loaded with protein, and it’s good for you. So instead of chugging that Slim-Fast shake for your next meal, you can have one of these instead. Okay, I’m probably wrong about this point.

Here’s the bottom line: Fiesta potatoes are a horrible ingredient for any recipe idea at Taco Bell. Unless it’s a pure unadulterated side of fiesta potatoes with the standard sour cream, cheese sauce, etc., just say “pass.” Any other decision will leave you with deep feelings of regret, sorrow, and shame.

Bacon Cheesy Potato Burrito, I wanted to be friends with you, I really did. But unfortunately, I have to give you the big thumbs down. All that you had to do was just seduce me gently with a little bit of real bacon, and I’m talkin’ strips of bacon here. But that didn’t happen, did it?

So, where do we go from here?

My suggested trip to the promised land of Taco Bell happiness includes the following: two chili-cheese burritos, two cheese roll-ups, four soft tacos, and lots of hot sauce. I recommend the signature Taco Bell “Fire” variety.

Now, the hole in your stomach lining after you consume all of that hot sauce for an extended period of time? That’s going to cost you extra.

Matt Wardlaw
Matt Wardlaw is a music lifer with nearly 20 years of experience in the industry. Of course you all have shoes older than that, but that's okay, Matt realizes that he's still a rookie. His byline has appeared in the Riverfront Times (St. Louis), Cleveland Scene, Blogcritics, Music's Bottom Line and Ultimate Classic Rock, among others. In addition to writing for Popdose, Matt also has his own music blog called Addicted to Vinyl where he writes about a variety of subjects including but not limited to vinyl. In his spare time, Matt enjoys long walks in the park, Cherone-era Van Halen and driving long distances to Night Ranger concerts.