One day a billboard popped up by my apartment featuring a huge heap of chicken and lettuce and salsa that I could not look away from. It was for Taco Bell’s Cantina Bell menu, which everyone knows is their attempt to have something mildly Chipotle-like. The name confused me – isn’t a Cantina a bar? Was there going to be beer as well? Who knows. All I knew was that I liked the look of chef Lorena Garcia, because she speaks about her Taco Bell items with so much pride, and because she has pretty highlights. I had to try this food.
I must say I’m the target demographic for Cantina Bell because I already have a sort of Jekyll and Hyde-like relationship with both Taco Bell and Chipotle. Drunk, stumbly, 2 a.m. me has developed a certain addiction to fourthmeal, namely Gorditas, which means “little fatty” and let me tell you they do turn you into a little fatty. Professional, daytime me has also developed an addiction to Chipotle’s chicken salads, which are kinda healthy I think. Plus – food with integrity! Pigs that smile! Chickens that get to dance while they’re alive. Somethin’ like that. I don’t have to feel guilty about my Chipotle, they assure me.
So this Cantina Bell seemed to unite my love of Taco Bell’s sloppy, gooey food with my sophisticated Chipotle side, minus all the ethical farming and stuff. I was down. I was raring to go. Yesterday, my boyfriend finally took me there for a birthday lunch. I got the Cantina Bowl, and he got the boy version of that, the Cantina Burrito.
His first word when he bit into it was, “Yum!”
“You like it?”
“Whenever I bite into something and I am met with a mouthful of cilantro I’m happy.”
(We are normal people who enjoy cilantro, not like those people who think it tastes like soap cuz they are missing the cilantro gene or something.)
I was a bit slower to get to my food because I had just had a ‘scenario’ wherein I went to pee and had to be ‘buzzed in’ to the bathroom, something that has never happened to me before. The bathroom was generally disgusting and the toilet did not work.
My first observation was that no matter how good the food was, you’re still at Taco Bell and that in itself is not good for whetting the palate. I recommend drive through. (But not in a cab at 2 a.m. cuz I think the Cantina menu stops at a certain point in the night.)
My bowl of food was similar to a Chipotle burrito bowl but covered in a green dressing that appeared to be made of guacamole and cilantro and maybe some limey stuff. I tasted it and confirmed that it probably contained those ingredients. The whole mess of chicken, rice, lettuce and salsa was very comforting and carby, and the dressing kind of turned it all into a gooey green mess as I went along. It felt very much healthier than a gordita.
Other people from town were enjoying a lunch break at Taco Bell as well, and most of them were just eating regular Taco Bell. They seemed lonely.
My boyfriend and I didn’t try eachother’s meals cuz they seemed like the same thing, but his had a burrito around it. I tore off a piece of the burrito and tried it. We both agreed that it seemed more ‘artisanal’ than the average burrito, more thin, more fried, less doughy. Gold star.
As we left I became nervous that I had food poisoning from Taco Bell lettuce. I don’t usually eat Taco Bell in the daytime and worry about such things. Usually if I had an upset stomach from Taco Bell I would admit that the many ounces of booze in my stomach were more to blame. As my afternoon went on and I found I had zero sickness from my Cantina Bowl, I knew that it was a true success.
I recommend everyone try one, but bring it elsewhere when you actually eat it. Proceed pretending it’s not Taco Bell.