A few weeks back, we reported that Taco Bell faced a lawsuit that would require the Mexican fast food provider to be more specific as to the contents of the “beef” used in its tacos. The latest figure from the company is that 88 percent of the meat in its tacos is beef.
This prompted us at Decisive Latino, to call for a taco taste test of national fast food chains that also specialize in Mexican food. Today we offer the results of our first taste test that pits Taco Bell against Taco Cabana, a Texas-based chain with 150 restaurants in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It’s part of the Carrols Restaurant Group that also owns Burger King.
And the winner is, Taco Cabana, but surprisingly, not by a landslide.
Our method is simple. Like our readers, we are also consumers and our test was a real world match-up between the two. I purchased the tacos, at different times, and ate them. I chose two—the crispy beef taco and the soft chicken taco, ostensibly to offer a healthier alternative to beef.
Here’s what I found.
Highs—Price, only $2.68 f or two tacos. Low in calories. Very tasty packaged salsas.
Lows—Served lukewarm-to-cold and small portions.
Crispy Beef Taco—It takes about eight minutes to drive home from the Taco Bell in my neighborhood. When I arrived, the taco was cold. Lettuce and cheese fixings were sparing. The packaged fire roasted chipotle salsa, however, was quite tasty so my first bite wasn’t altogether unpleasant. The taco shell was crispy, but delicate. The meat does have a “different” flavor, more veggie than meaty, but again, not unpleasant, and the texture was fairly fine for ground meat.
Soft Chicken Taco—Again, the taco was cold. Prepared on a flour tortilla, the chicken appeared to be breast meat and was cut in strips, fajita-style. Like the beef taco, the portions of chicken, lettuce, and tomato were spare. Like all cold flour tortillas, this one was chewy. The flavor, this time enhanced by the verde salsa, was good, in fact, quite enjoyable.
Highs—Cost, only $2.79 for two tacos, freshmade salsas and authentic flavoring.
Lows—Served lukewarm-cold, mushy texture on the chicken taco, higher in calories, sodium, and fat.
Crispy Beef Taco—It takes about 15 minutes to drive home from the nearest Taco Cabana, and this time, both tacos were also lukewarm to cold. The crispy beef taco was a little more generous when it came to portions of meat and fixings but it was the flavor that really stood out. Not only was the beef more meaty tasting, it had authentic Mexican flavoring, e.g. cumin, garlic, and pepper. The beauty of Taco Cabana is the limitless salsa bar, featuring four different fresh salsas, from regular tomato to tomatillo, as well as pico de gallo, cilantro, onions, limes, and jalapeños, which gives the food even more of an authentic flavor.
Soft Chicken Taco—Soft chicken tacos come in three varieties: flameante (cut from rotisserie chicken), fajita, or stewed I chose the latter. Flour tortillas are made fresh onsite, and in sight of the customers, on a mesmerizing spiral conveyer. Though fresh, they can be a little under cooked and chewy. I did discover, however, that corn tortillas (a healthier choice) are available but they are packaged and not made fresh onsite. While the portion of chicken was generous, the texture was a bit mushy which made the taco fairly soggy. Like the meat taco, the flavoring of the chicken was tasty and authentic.
Overall, both restaurants offer very affordable food but Taco Cabana excelled when it came to flavor, but unfortunately, flavor does come at a cost in calories, fat, and sodium. Credit goes to both companies, however, for the nutritional information offered on their websites, http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/calculator, and http://www.tacocabana.com/menu/nutrition/.