- The fast-food value-menu wars have flared back up with the release of McDonald’s new dollar menu and Taco Bell’s overhauled value menu.
- Taco Bell’s “Dollar Cravings” menu has 20 choices, including breakfast items.
- The majority of the items are delicious, but there are a few that are definitely not worth the trouble.
With the unveiling of its new $US1 $US2 $US3 Menu, McDonald’s fired the first salvo of the second Fast-Food War. But Taco Bell has been quick to respond in kind.
Enter the chain’s newly expanded dollar value menu.
There’s a lot of competition among fast-food chains to grab the attention of budget-conscious diners, and the spate of new menus has sped up the race to the bottom of the value barrel.
And while many chains are slashing menu items to simplify customers’ choices, Taco Bell’s menu bucks the trend. With 19 food choices, and one drink, it far eclipses McDonald’s tiered menu’s comparatively puny selection of 10 food items.
There are 11 all-day items and eight breakfast items – an embarrassment of riches. But don’t be fooled by the deal because not all that glitters is gold. We’ve tasted every item on the menu and ranked them so you know what to fork over a buck for, and what to avoid at any cost.
It’s a huge menu and a huge undertaking to taste-test and rank it all. But someone’s got to do it! So here they are, worst to best.
19. Hash Brown
I’m a big fan of hash browns. They’re the unsung hero of fast-food breakfasts everywhere – except at Taco Bell. It smells and tastes like a flour tortilla, which makes sense considering it’s fried in the same fryer as flour tortillas. Efficiency does not make everything edible.
It’s a strange and unsettling flavour combination that should be avoided.
18. Cheesy Roll Up
Sure, we all did it as a desperate after-school snack, and as a 7th grader who can’t cook, it’s a good, quick choice. Even as a very broke college student, it’s allowed. But come on now, these days have (hopefully!) passed.
It’s a tortilla filled with cheese. Even if you’re inebriated at 2 a.m. and looking for a $US1 deal, you can be more imaginative than this.
17. Triple Layer Nachos
Three layers is stretching it; to call a sauce a “layer” is really pushing the limits.
Semantics aside, the construction is lazy by design. Just throw some goopy cheese, refried beans, and sauce on some chips and call it a day. It’s unsatisfying and cools very quickly.
The greenhouse plastic dome – no, not the fun Buckminster Fuller kind – creates a soggy sauna of the whole thing. It kind of feels more like an accident than a menu item.
16. Cinnabon Delights 2-pack
My distaste for these little saccharine mortar shells is widely documented, and it has not changed. They’re gross pods of sugary doom.
Listen, I get it. Sweet stuff is good. But these little cinnamon monstrosities are essentially icing-stuffed dough Gushers and should not be served to humans or any living organism.
15. Sausage Flatbread Quesadilla
The flatter the bread, the flatter the flavour. Something is off about this – also, why flatbread? It brings nothing to the item. Just make it a normal quesadilla, throw in some salsa, and call it a day. It’d be delicious! Alas.
14. Grilled Bacon Breakfast Burrito
In what seems to be a recurring theme for Taco Bell’s bacon-based breakfast items, this burrito is really, really salty and rather bland. There’s no depth of flavour past “salt.” The cheese and egg meld into a flat note of nothing with a side of goopy textural malaise.
13. Bacon Soft Taco
The same issues that arose with the bacon burrito are present here. It’s an incredibly salty yet flavourless item. It’s a one-note taco, and that note is salt. Some hot sauce may help cut through it, but to what end?
12. Spicy Potato Soft Taco
Although not as flavorful as one would expect, it’s mostly salty and cheesy – not things to complain about, but it lacks oomph. Some hot sauce definitely adds zing and is recommended. But Taco Bell manages to make downright delicious potatoes.
11. Caramel Apple Empanada
This is super sweet, heavy on caramel, and light on apple. Also, biting into it releases a molten flow of searing hot caramel and apple goop.
Taco Bell tried to come for McDonald’s iconic apple pie and missed the mark. Credit is due for the effort, however.
10. Mini Skillet Bowl
Taco Bell’s weirdly good potatoes help stave off failure for this odd little breakfast bowl. It feels a tad haphazard – potatoes, egg, cheese, and tomatoes thrown together to capitalise on the bowl trend.
The pico de gallo adds a nice brightness, but the temperature difference between it and the warm eggs and cheese feels strange. It’s not a bad item, but it’s not delicious either.
9. Sausage Soft Taco
My unabashed and unashamed opinion: Sausage is always the better option in fast-food breakfast scenarios. It has more seasoning, less salt, and is more texturally satisfying than bacon bits. As such, the sausage soft taco is certainly better than the bacon one. This is a solid middle ground for the menu.
8. Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito
This is a hearty burrito that’s a bit flat in flavour. Plus, it’s a lot of carbs all at once – not that someone ordering from the Taco Bell dollar menu is exactly homing in on healthy options, but the fact remains. It’s good! But not superb.
7. Grilled Sausage Breakfast Burrito
Is there anything new to be said here? The sausage is peppery and peppy while avoiding a salty overload. It could use some salsa or hot sauce to give it an edge to cut through the egg and cheese, but that’s at the eater’s discretion.
6. Beefy Mini Quesadilla
This is satisfying in only the way a pocket of melty cheese and seasoned taco beef can be. The meat is a little on the spicy side, but it could use even more kick, to be frank. Throw some hot sauce on it, and you’ve got a pretty good meal.
5. Beefy Fritos Burrito
I have to admit: This burrito is a personal favourite. The Fritos don’t stay crunchy for long, but the corn chips bring a delicious savoury note to the seasoned rice and beef that isn’t often found on Taco Bell’s menu. Very rarely does any corn tortilla-based anything show up. It’s a very filling burrito, too – a great deal.
4. Cinnamon Twists
Simplicity is often its own reward.
These are sweet, but only just enough, and the cinnamon comes through more than the sugar. The texture is almost identical to a chicharron, with a satisfying crunch while remaining light and airy. This is a dessert that doesn’t feel guilty – even if you order three servings.
3. Chicken Mini Quesadilla
This is weirdly good? The chicken is tender and spicy and the melted cheese makes everything better. It’s satisfying and a perfect serving size. There’s just enough spice to make it interesting – but not too much as to drown the flavour – and the shredded chicken is delicious.
2. Spicy Tostada
Messy. So, so messy. Unwieldy, even – like trying to balance a salad on a wet piece of cardboard. Yet design woes aside, the tostada is fairly tasty. The pleasantly effective heat of the refried beans and hot sauce is nicely balanced by ample diced tomato and lettuce. And even if it gets too soggy, you can just fold it into some sort of massive franken-taco. There’s no way to lose!
1. Grilled Fiesta Potato Breakfast Burrito
I mentioned earlier that Taco Bell makes strangely good potatoes. In this burrito, they bring more savoury, salty, and filling deliciousness than any meat option could. The rich cheese is perfectly balanced with the acidic and crisp pico de gallo. There’s depth, textural diversity – this burrito has it all. And for $US1? Easily the best deal on the menu.
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