- Taco Bell recently opened a line of restaurants called Taco Bell Cantinas, which feature trendy decor and serve alcoholic drinks.
- Although there are only a few Taco Bell Cantinas currently open in the US, the chain has plans to open hundreds more by 2022.
- I visited one of the new Taco Bell Cantinas in New York City, and found the modern twist more enjoyable than a regular Taco Bell experience.
Taco Bell Cantinas are popping up in major cities across the US.
The new restaurants are a modern, upscale take on the traditional Taco Bell and feature trendy decor, shareable tapas-style menus, and alcoholic drinks like frozen margaritas and local beer.
Cantinas, along with Taco Bell’s “Urban Inline” restaurants, which are similarly decorated but don’t serve alcohol, might soon be coming to a street corner near you: Although there are only a couple dozen currently operating in the US, the chain plans to open 300 more by 2022.
I headed to one of the newly opened Cantinas near Penn Station in New York City to see what all the fuss is about.
Here’s what the experience was like:
Decor isn’t something that has necessarily stood out to me at a standard Taco Bell, but it was the first thing I noticed even before walking into the Cantina.
First, I noticed an ‘I Love New York’-esque sign with the Taco Bell logo shining down on the street.
Inside, the cosy space was buzzing with customers. Hanging lamps of various shapes and sizes, plus a colourful graffiti mural, added a casual, yet playful, feel to the space.
Customers ordered their food on large computer kiosks instead of at the counter.
The kiosks eliminated any sort of anxious line-waiting or concerns of having your order misheard, and helpful photos alongside each menu item allowed you to see exactly what you were getting and make modifications.
For my drink, I went with a Margarita Freeze, made “Twisted” with La Quiere agave wine. The other options for the alcoholic mix-in were Petrov Reserve fermented vodka and Ron Copa Rica fermented rum.
After ordering and paying on the kiosk, I walked up to the cashier to show them my ID and pick up my drinks (my dining partner got a Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze — a non-alcoholic classic). Both drinks came out of the same slushie machine, and mine was topped off with the wine.
As for the taste, it was unlike any margarita I’ve ever had (frozen or not) but it had a subtle lime taste. It didn’t taste very strongly of alcohol either, which I liked. I got the regular size and it cost $US6.69, which isn’t bad for a mixed drink in NYC.
A lack of a drive-thru and the addition of communal tables and music changed the dining experience. I’m not a Taco Bell regular, but compared to the times I’ve visited my local location in suburban Long Island, the vibe at the NYC Cantina I visited was definitely more lively.
I can’t say that eating my meal on a two-toned wood table necessarily made it taste better, but the music and decor enhanced my overall dining experience.
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