Taco Bell’s enchirito and 7 layer nacho fries are holiday calorie bombs


We’re heading into the thick of the holiday season, which means a return of all those traditions that you and your family hold dear: the gathering of relatives around the table, the lighting of the menorah, the children waking early on Christmas morn in a mad dash for presents, the afternoon trip to Taco Bell for an Enchirito.

What? The last item isn’t on your holiday agenda?

Funny, because as Thanksgiving fast approaches, Taco Bell seems to assume someone in your household has a hankering for an enchilada smothered in a thin red sauce and shredded cheese. The chain, the first to understand that America’s collective attention deficient could be translated into an ever-changing menu, reintroduced the Enchirito on Thursday for a limited time. A very limited time, as in till Nov. 30.

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The Enchirito makes its return — I would say “triumphant return,” but can a foodstuff do anything triumphantly? — to the menu after winning a poll that pitted the enchilada-burrito mash-up against the another blast from the past: the Double Decker Taco, the dish that, I suspect, inspired the “Saturday Night Live” parody, “Taco Town.” In the end, the Enchirito took 62 percent of the vote in the Taco Bell Rewards app, and the Double Decker was decent enough not to claim voter fraud.

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The Enchirito made its debut in 1970, and the dish feels like it came from another era. Its approach to fusion is lean: It takes a flour tortilla and stuffs it with seasoned beef, beans and diced onions, then buries it with red sauce and a light sprinkle of cheddar cheese. Compared to the caloric thrill-rides that have entered the world of fast-food since the 1970s — like, Pizza Hut’s pie with hot dogs baked into the crust, or Taco Bell’s cereal killer, Cap’n Crunch Bites — the Enchirito seems downright restrained. I’d even call it modest. Still, all I could think was: This thing needs more cheese.

Last month, Taco Bell also brought back Nacho Fries, which gave the restless chain an excuse to create two more dishes. Or, really, one-and-a-half. The first is a Taco Bell take on a 7 layer dip but with, you know, Nacho Fries. The seasoned fries serve as the base, upon which are heaped ground beef, black beans, diced tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheddar and two types of sauce, a warm nacho and creamy chipotle. The dish’s pleasures lie in its contrasts: the cool against the warm, the spicy next to the creamy, the fried verses the fresh, the ungodly amount of salt compared to the ungodly amount of fat. If you served this to Saint Nick instead of cookies and milk, his feet would swell to the size of cantaloupes.

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I really liked this dish, by the way. My feet look normal. So far.

Taco Bell couldn’t leave well enough alone with the 7 Layer Nacho Fries, however. It repackages the dish in burrito form, following in the great tradition of stuffing fries into a handheld bite, whether a pork gyro or a Primanti Bros. sandwich. The fries instantly go limp, of course. But, worse, the burrito erases some of the beautiful contrasts, especially between ingredients of different temperatures. Following the rules of thermal equilibrium, the warmer ingredients have transferred their heat to the cooler ones, making for a handy, portable but ultimately lukewarm and unfulfilling dish.

I’ll stick with the 7 Layer Nacho Fries. I wonder if I could get away with putting it on the holiday table instead of a potato casserole?

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