In the 10 weeks since Taco Bell unleashed the Doritos Los Taco on the world (you know, the taco inside a shell made of Doritos), over 100 million of the orange abominations have been sold, breaking the fast food chain’s record for most popular new item. But apparently, Taco Bell is still concerned that there are consumers that they’re not reaching–so they’re going the opposite direction, with a new line of fancy, “artisan” grub, called the Cantina Bell menu, which will debut nation-wide in about a month. And here’s the kicker: it might actually not be that bad.
After going through a rough patch (due in large part to some Salmonella scares and various attacks on their “beef”), Taco Bell realized they needed to do something big–so they tested the waters with a couple of different new offerings, amont them, the Doritos Los Tacos, and the Cantina Bell menu, which they actually started back in January. Unfortunately for the health of the nation, it seems that the ridiculous junk food overshadowed the launch of the potentially-healthier (maybe?) fare.
Still, the Doritos Los Tacos hasn’t done much to change Taco Bell’s reputation as a junk-producing machine of epically greasy proportions. To capture the dollar of more discerning customers, the restaurant seems to be basically splitting their offerings: some of their stuff will be ludicrous (like this breakfast drink, or their “First Meal,” or any of the other million headline-making new items they’ve debuted in the last year) and horrible for your health, and some of it will be “gourmet” and include things like lettuce that isn’t shredded iceberg. Novel!
The Cantina Bell menu, which is obviously pandering to health food lovers and foodies (hence the use of chef Lorena Garcia, who was on The Biggest Loser and Top Chef, in the ads), still isn’t widely available–they’ve been a little distracted trying to get Cool Ranch-flavored taco shells down pat, I imagine–so neither is the nutritional info. However, after poking around on the Internet (like a good pseudo-reporter), I was able to find some of the information about a few of the items, via Shine on Yahoo!
According to their information, the offerings look a little more promising that the “better” stuff that Taco Bell already offers (their “diet” line, which is called the Fresco menu, has while lower in calories, but also comes in impossibly small portions that require most people to order several items, which defeats the purpose), with soft tacos coming in around 200 calories, and burritos over 700. Unfortunately, the salads are still pretty bloated–they range in the 550-calorie range, which is a lot.
Shine also compared the nutritional information to that of Chiptole, who Taco Bell is obviously targeting with this line–and, in most cases, Chipotle wins out for the healthier meal. Still, these items don’t look nearly as bad as some of the stuff that Taco Bell has introduced lately, and, with their relatively low price-points, may actually not be terrible choices for busy families or people who are cash-strapped.
UPDATE: A press contact for Taco Bell has sent me the nutritional information on some of the items in the line. They are as follows:
Cantina Bowl: Chicken ($4.79, 560 calories, 22g total fat. 26g protein), Veggie ($4.79, 540 calories, 21g total fat, 14g protein), Steak ($4.99, 550 calories, 23g total fat, 22g protein)
Cantina Burrito: Chicken ($4.79, 760 calories, 27g total fat, 32g protein), Veggie ($4.79, 740 calories, 26g total fat, 20g protein), Steak ($4.99, 750 calories, 28g total fat, 28g protein)
Ok, 27 grams of fat is kind of a lot, but for 32 grams of protein, that chicken bowl doesn’t look like a total gut-buster–and may actually have some value. And they come with guacamole and some kind of fancy sour cream sauce which, if you got it without the those additions, could probably shave off at least 100 calories and some fat.
The Cantina Bell line looks like it may be more promising than other offerings at Taco Bell–it uses whole meat, there are vegetables present, and there are meat-free options that don’t involve puddles of artificial cheese sauce–but we’ll have to wait for complete nutritional information and whatever else Taco Bell adds on to know if “better” equates to “actually good for you.” I’m still skeptical, but any addition of more wholesome grub at the drive-thru is an improvement.
Image via Taco Bell