Tag Archives: Fast Food

Taco Bell Review

Yes, Taco Bell

Kauai enjoying the Baja Blast straw.

I started my Birthday Weekend Extravaganza (TM) last Thursday by getting Taco Bell for dinner. Yes, Taco Bell. No, I’m not kidding and yes, I think it’s worth blogging about it. Defensive much? (I ask myself, of course).

Despite living in California for over 40 years now, I don’t think I’ve had Taco Bell before. It’s not like I’m against fast food, I’ve tried all the burger chains (or almost), but Taco Bell just never appealed to me. I’m not a fan of crunch, and their crunchy tacos always seemed unwieldy. Plus, really, their meat looked nasty (and then there was the whole scandal about whether it was even meat) and their tacos seemed to be mostly lettuce anyway. So I’ve never been tempted to try them.

Until Thursday night. My daughter was home from college, none of us could figure out what we wanted for dinner, and then she suddenly mentioned she wanted to try Taco Bell’s Black Bean Crunchwrap. I had no idea of what that was, but ordering Taco Bell solved the problem of what to get for dinner, so I jumped at the idea – much to my husband’s surprise (“Taco Bell? Really?”).

For my first incursion into Taco Bell cuisine, I ordered a Steak White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito with extra guacamole ($4.4) and a Steak Quesadilla also with extra guacamole ($6.2). Neither were as bad as I feared. For one, by ordering “steak” items, I was able to avoid the dreaded “seasoned beef”, and while the steak was just low quality meat, it wasn’t actually offensive. Indeed, the steak quesadilla tasted like something I would make at home (which, btw, is why I don’t make quesadillas at home, and instead get them from Taquería Los Pericos). It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it just was. But it wasn’t was a particular great value. At that price, I might as well get one from Los Pericos. The burrito was pretty similar except that it had french fries inside. I had french fries in souvlaky pitas in Greece in the past, so I was intrigued by the idea of french fries in a burrito. Alas, I’d forgotten that I no longer like french fries and I didn’t like them inside a burrito either. Still, it was perfectly acceptable. Both items were too much for a single meal – I didn’t have a good sense of how big they would be -, one will be enough next time.

I also ordered the cinnabon delights (12 for $5), which are cinnamon roll balls filled with glaze cream. They are deadly. Super, super sweet and I’m surprised I didn’t die of a diabetic coma. But they were very tasty and one goes a long away.

My daughter tried the black bean crunchwrap supreme ($4.4). This is supposed to be a crunchy tostada wrapped in a flour tortilla but it lacked the promised crunch. Instead it was soggy and yet it tasted dry and would have benefitted from a sauce. She wouldn’t order it again. She also didn’t like the spicy potato soft taco. This was just potato, cheese and lettuce in a tortilla, with no sauce or anything to bring it together. IT’s just $1, but not worth the calories. Fortunately, she did like her veggie White Hot Ranch Fries Burrito ($3.3), so at least she didn’t go hungry. The Cinnabon twists ($1) were also good, but not as good as the delights.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that Taco Bell didn’t suck, which is good to know for road trips and if I’m ever hungry and with nothing to eat at 2 AM – which has yet to happen.

Update: my daughter wanted to stop at Taco Bell for a breakfast burrito today so I had her get me a chicken quesadilla ($5.4). As we were in the drive through I didn’t customize it, but I was actually quite satisfied with the results. It had plenty of gooey cheese and it was slightly spicy. It wasn’t particularly big but works for a snack. My daughter got the Sausage Hash Brown Toasted Breakfast Burrito ($2.6) and she was quite happy with it. She’s liked other breakfast burritos before but this one became an instant favorite.

Taco Bell
At 797 Marina Blvd
San Leandro, CA
Dine In M-Su 7 AM - 10 PM
Drive Through Su-Th 7 AM - 3 AM, F-Sa 7 AM - 4 AM


Chipotle Quesadilla Review

Good but Expensive

I’m not the biggest fan of Chipotle – mostly because it’s boring and expensive. I understand why people might seek it in places that don’t have a great taqueria (or taco truck) in every corner, but I fail to understand its appeal in California. Still, my daughter likes it, so we ordered it for lunch a few days ago.

This time I decided to try the quesadilla, which is basically a deconstructed burrito grilled long enough to melt the cheese. It’s served with 3 “sides” which really mean the ingredients you’d otherwise have inside the burrito, things like rice, beans, salsas and sour cream Burrito extras, like guacamole, are still extra for quesadillas.

The steak quesadilla was tasty, but it felt smaller than a burrito (probably just my imagination), and having the salsa/sour cream/guacamole (the latter came in a different container) outside the burrito only made it more difficult to eat. The shape of the quesadilla, and the fact that it’s cut in two diagonally made it even more impractical, the filling kept falling out as I tried to dip it.

At $11.40 (prices vary by location*), it was a pretty poor value – though I’m sure no worse than anything else at Chipotle.

On the plus side, the ingredients were fresh and the beef has less gristle/fat than that at some local taquerias. Also on the plus side, Chipotle is very vegan friendly. Not only do they offer sofritas, a plant based protein, as a vegan alternative to meats, but their rice, beans, tortillas and chips are all vegan. Often times, Mexican restaurants use chicken broth for their rice, or lard for their beans and/or tortillas.

Chipotle – San Leandro
1505 E 14th St.(510) 667-100310:45 AM – 10 PM

* For the sake of looking at how minimum wages impacted on Chipotle’s prices, I used their very helpful website to price a steak quesadilla at different Chipotles. This is what I found:

In Seattle, WA, with the highest minimum wage in the country at $16.69/hr, a Chipotle steak quesadilla is $9.85

In San Francisco, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it’s $11

In Berkeley, CA with a $16.32/hr minimum wage, it is $10.25.

In Manhattan, NY with a $15/hr minimum wage, it’s $11.15

In my city, San Leandro, CA, with a $15/hr MW, it’s $11.40

In Fresno, CA, with a $14/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Peoria, IL with an $11/hr MW, it’s $9.65

In Tulsa, OK, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.55

In Hinesville, GA, with a $7.25/hr MW, it’s $9.65

The Habit Burger Grill – Walnut Creek – Review

 

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger & Cheeseburger w/ Avocado & Bacon

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger & Cheeseburger w/ Avocado & Bacon

Habit Burger is a newish  chain of “upscale” fast food burger joints that is trying to spread throughout the Bay Area.  One may be opening in San Leandro in a year or two, a fact that Mayor Stephen Cassidy considers a major accomplishment of his administration (I kid you not!).  We were driving by Walnut Creek, and my husband decided we should stop by one of its restaurant and find out whether Cassidy’s characterization of the restaurant as “a hip, healthy and delicious” was accurate.   It wasn’t, but then again, I can’t say I am surprised.

As far as fast-food chains go, Habit Burger is definitely a step up from McDonalds and their ilk.  Its flavor profiles are closest to In-N-Out, but the restaurant is classier and it offers greater choices.  The burgers ($3.50) were tasty, though the patties were small, thin and dry.  They are charbroiled, which gives them a flavor similar to Burger King’s whoppers.  My youngest daughter, who had hers with cheese & ketchup but nothing else, found it too small and too dry.  This is a child that’s eaten her fair share of school cafeteria burgers, so criticism from her says somethings.  I ordered my burger with guacamole and bacon ($1 extra each) and that made all the difference.  The guacamole tasted fresh and vibrant and the bacon was crispy;  the two combined completely redeemed the burger – but the patty was pathetic.   My husband had the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger ($4.60) and he also thought the burger was just OK.

My 11-yo had the chicken sandwich ($5.75) . She found it “OK”. The chicken itself was dry and the sandwich was a bit too peppery. She wouldn’t return, even if we had one here.

Neither my husband nor kids liked the fries ($1.85).  They had a hard/chewy outer part and had a strange flavor. To me, they tasted as if they’d been cooked with their peels, but that wasn’t actually the case.  Still, they did remind me (flavor wise, not texture wise) of In-N-Out fries.  The portion was generous, but we didn’t finish them between the four of us.

We had different opinions with respect to the shakes ($3), however.  Hubby ordered the vanilla and he found it too thin and tasteless. I shared the mocha with my oldest, and we both enjoyed it.  It had a nice flavor, and while it was thin, I guess you don’t expect mochas to be thicker.

The food was ready fast and, as I mentioned, the restaurant was quite nice and clean.  It did smell horrible, though, like old, stale oil.  Maybe that’s why their fries were so unappetizing.

In all, I’d say this place is marginally better than In-N-Out, but nowhere as good as Nation’s.  It’s probably a good fit for those who like Burger King but want nicer surroundings. But if you want a burger that looks like it’s made of beef, then Habit Burger is not for you.

Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Sandwich

Closeup of beef patty

Closeup of beef patty

The Habit Burger Grill 
1255 S California Blvd
Walnut Creek, CA
(925) 279-2286
http://www.habitburger.com/

Marga’s Chain Restaurant Reviews