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First reviews: Taco Bell Cantina Bell menu 'beats' Chipotle
New upscale Taco Bell menu beats Chipotle
In preparation for my "Taco Bell Cantina Bell Sneak Eat" event on Monday night, I hit a localï¿½ Chipotle Mexican Grillï¿½ for lunch.ï¿½ While Taco Bell won't admit it, the Irvine-based chain will be going head to head with the fresh-Mex giant when it debuts its own version ofï¿½ rice-stuffed burritos and bowlsï¿½ on Thursday.ï¿½
Theï¿½ ambitious Taco Bell Cantina Bell menuï¿½ contains fresh-Mex ingredients such as seasoned white rice, corn salsa, black beans and romaine lettuce. The burritos and bowls will sell for less than $5.
On Monday night, Taco Bellï¿½ franchiseeï¿½ Steve Smith hosted a Cantina Bell preview event at his Fountain Valley restaurant. ï¿½ He invited 25 fans of my Fast Food Maven blog to try the new menu along with their guests. The diners were served a bowl and a half burrito. ï¿½
Many fans said theyï¿½ were excited about the layers of flavor, and the addition of new ingredients such as cilantro rice, corn salsa and romaine lettuce. ï¿½ Miami chef Lorena Garcia, who will compete on "Top Chef Masters" when it debuts July 25, developed the menu for Taco Bell.
"The bright flavors hit me the most," said Aria Mohammadi, 20, of Irvine. "It beat Chipotle."ï¿½
"It's totally different. But does it fit Taco Bell's image? I don't know," said Mike Loftis, 42, of Fountain Valley.
Most everyone compared the menu to Chipotle, includingï¿½ OC Mex foodï¿½ blogger Christian Ziebarth. He, like others, thought Taco Bell's flavors outshined Chipotle.
"This is Taco Bell taking a step up. That's a good thing for them," said Ziebarth, an expert on Mexican cuisine in Orange County.
That's exactly the reaction Taco Bell is looking for.
"This has been a labor of love for two years," said Amy Kavanaugh, Taco Bell's vice president of public affairs. "We were looking for ways to be a better Taco Bell. She (Lorena Garcia) helped us fall in love with our food again."ï¿½
My thoughts:ï¿½ Garcia packs a ton of flavor using cilantro and lime in her newï¿½ ingredients. If I had to choose between two white rice-stuffed burritos, I'd pick Taco Bell. For me, the key ingredient is the cilantro dressing, which adds a layer of creamy flavor that is lacking in a Chipotle burrito.ï¿½
Chipotle's fresh salsas, however, areï¿½ superior to Taco Bell's hot sauce packets.
Beyond that, you can't beat Taco Bell's pricing. Depending on the protein choice, the bowls and burritos will sell for $4.79 (chicken) or $4.99 (steak). Cantina Bell also will feature a "veggie" option, which includes a meatless burrito or bowl with double the amount of black beans. A chicken or steak burrito at Chipotle cost $6.25 and $6.70, respectively.
BOGO offer:ï¿½ Starting July 5,ï¿½ Taco Bell Facebookï¿½ fans can claim a buy-one-get-one-free offer through July 7. The offer will be good for a free Cantina Bowl or a free Cantina Burrito with the purchase of a Cantina Bowl or a Cantina Burrito. The deal can be redeemed at participating Taco Bell restaurants by handing over a printout email of the offer or by showing the email itself via mobile phone from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. only, Taco Bell said.ï¿½
Cantina Bell guarantee:ï¿½ Taco Bell is guaranteeing its new menu. If a customer tries and doesn't like the Cantina Bowl or Cantina Burrito, Taco Bell will give a refund or replace it.ï¿½
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