I've been writing about fast food for five years, but only recently did the purveyors of said foodstuffs take an interest. Drive an hour and a half to be among the first to taste-test new Del Taco product? Hellz yeah, that sounds like something worthwhile. It was an interesting experience - part press conference, part life as a guinea pig. And at the end of it all I'm among the first to review stuff that won't be available to the public for another two days...and in some cases may never make it out of testing.
The items that will be coming this week for sure are the epic burritos. How epic? Here's a comparison shot with my hand for scale...
It's funny to hear marketing people refer to food in terms of storytelling, but the story here is basically twofold - fold one involves competing with Chipotle by offering a similar product, but fold two involves doing it using the burger-fries/Mexican mashup style that Del Taco feels is pretty much theirs and theirs alone. The final product looks like something you might see at Carl's Jr., to be honest. I think maybe it's the blue text that does it.
No, I did not finish all three. Like Guy Fieri, I just took one or two big bites for effect.
First up was the fajita. Chicken, rice, sour cream, guacamole, pinto beans, black beans, cotija cheese and grilled veggies like corn and poblanos. I asked for mine without sour cream, and it certainly does not need it. While the guacamole was stuffed a bit to the bottom of mine, the cotija throughout gave a nice flavor and added a crumbly texture that was welcome. The grilled veggies were a very nice note with the chicken; the only minor detraction was that I don't think it needed both kinds of beans - they blend together and feel pasty next to all the other strong flavors. All in all, something I would order again.
Let us look inside, shall we?
Up next - steak and potato, i.e. foodicide. Beef "steak," fries, grated cheese, chipotle sauce, bacon and sour cream. I'm not fond of those last two ingredients, but it doesn't need them - while I'd love to see some of their chili get added to this mix, it is a decadent thing indeed. I'm not sure I'd want to finish a whole one, but those first two bites satisfied a loaded fries jones that always surfaces within me. The buzzword in marketing this one is "late night," which appears to be diplomatic adspeak for "when you're drunk and/or stoned." (See also: In the Box, Jack.)
Finally: chicken chipotle ranch. In addition to the three ingredients implied by the title, it has lettuce tomato, bacon, cheese and rice. This is the only one I would not eat again - while the freshness of the lettuce was a nice change from the last two, the combination of creamy chipotle and ranch dressing is just too rich for my tastebuds. I don't suppose it'll be a problem for many customers, but believe it or not I don't always want what's worst for me. Had to tap out.
Then it was time to enter the testing room, which is where things got interesting and our cameras were temporarily confiscated...