In the pantheon of bad decision-making by fast-food chains, Taco Bell is way up there…and yet they continue to retain complete immunity from their errors, like a canny reality show contestant. Maybe constantly winning the “make new item from same five ingredients” challenge year in and year out keeps them from going the way of…um…(insert forgotten fast food chain that went out of business here, if you can remember one. Or would that be an oxymoron?).
Some of their worst ideas have included replacing cinnamon crispas with cinnamon twists, switching to a cheaper meat product sometime in the ’90s that tasted noticeably worse, and replacing the salsa verde in their quesadillas with a creamy thing that does not work.
None of these upset me as much as when they got rid of shredded chicken.
The shredded chicken wasn’t just a new way to slice the bird, but a pseudo-mole in a greasy red sauce that was a qualitative leap above any other kind of Taco Bell-brand Meat Product. It basically counted as a legitimately brand-new ingredient, and was evidently something they paid a bit more for. So of course it got cut from the menu a few years back.
Imagine my surprise to see it on the menu again today. It’s available three ways – in a taco with cheese and lettuce, in a burrito with what looks like a mildly green sauce (cilantro? Avocado?) and in the new smothered burrito with a bunch of other crap. Well, you might as well go big or go home on this, so I went for the smother, brother.
Now, this makes it hard to isolate an assessment of just the chicken, since it comes with beans, rice, cheese, that creamy spicy sauce they do (which is infuriating because it looked like nacho cheese in the picture but isn’t), enchilada sauce, and more cheese. What I could make out is that it tasted slightly more like real chicken than the usual formed breast pieces, but it was not the same as my beloved fake mole of yesteryear.
I’ll say this for the burrito itself – it’s big and does not cheap out. Unlike so many Bell burritos, it isn’t doubly wrapped to look full while later revealing itself to be mostly tortilla folded in on itself. The tortilla is thin and only once around – as this is served in a plastic dish it is free to fall apart as its tensile strength or lack thereof may bear. It tastes mostly of salt, and is sizable enough that it alone may fill you up – something truly rare for a menu item at the home of the Locos Tacos.
I couldn’t finish it, in fact. Mainly because Taco Bell’s ancillary benefit began to kick in: it’s the cheapest place in town to buy a laxative. When it comes to shredding, this pernicious pollo gave as good as it got…in the end.