My Day Tasting New Items at Del Taco

By Luke Y. Thompson in Food & Drink
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

All I can show you for this part is the outside of the building...


The testing room is seriously like something you've seen in a dystopian sci-fi flick. You enter a room and sit in front of a cubbyhole, where there's a computer terminal, a light switch, and a sliding panel. The room is barely illuminated - but in red lights, so you can't really tell what color the food you're eating is.

When you flip the light switch, the panel in front of you slides open and you're presented with a food item - in this case, it was a large taco, with a lot of meat, cheese and the pico salsa that you normally get on Del's fish tacos. The meat was very hot throughout, but had an unusual texture, making me wonder if they were testing a cheaper kind of meat, or a different formula. It had a spicy aftertaste that was nice, but there was also so much of it that it overwhelmed the other ingredients.

The second item was a crunchtada, which I knew because it came in a box that said "crunchtada" on it. Splitting the difference between the basic beans version and the more fully loaded pizza, this one had meat and beans, but just red sauce, lettuce and cheese in addition. It was very good. I would have eaten it all except that they started rushing us at this point.

Oh, forgot to mention - weirdly, we were given bottled water to drink with these. Sodas did come eventually, but who drinks bottled water at a fast food place? I think maybe Carl's sells it, but I don't believe Del does.

Anyway, after regrouping in a regularly lit room, we were told the big twist - both items we'd eaten were made with ground turkey. The Turkey Taco is being tested, and, they tell us, generally well-liked by those who eat it, but resisted by some who simply don't want to. Because the switch from beef is being made by many people at home, the goal is to see if that can or should be reproduced in a chain. [To clarify: it would be an additional menu option, NOT a replacement for beef.]

My view on ground turkey is this - it is not a substitute for ground beef. Period. I will not make my personal chili recipe with ground turkey, as the differing fat content and texture changes the way the other ingredients and flavors mesh. I do, however, like ground turkey as its own thing. Did I like it in the taco? Not much. But in the crunchtada, I couldn't tell the difference, and I would buy that again.

Oh, and when I told them my biggest reason for occasionally going to their competitor's was for mid-size nachos...I was assured they are aware of this issue and working on it. A plea for jalapeno poppers, on the other hand, was met with a response that their cheesy potato jalapeno things are basically the same thing, and a best-seller. I'll buy the latter point - but don't tell me they're poppers if liquid lava cheese isn't bursting out and burning my tongue.

The Epic burritos go on sale Nov. 7th, for $4.99. The turkey's fate is unknown.

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