I hadn’t had a Crunchwrap Supreme, Taco Bell’s signature hexagonal combination of seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomato, shredded cheddar cheese, nacho cheese sauce, and reduced-fat sour cream, wrapped in a star-shaped flour tortilla and griddle-pressed into something approaching a religious experience, in many months.
But last night, sitting in a decrepit dual Taco Bell/KFC location on the outskirts of town, amid the cool blue glow of fluorescent lights and with the caffeinated fury of a Mountain Dew Baja Blast kickboxing its way through my veins, it all became so clear.
It is the woefully underrated Crunchwrap Supreme, and not that show-offy “Doritos Locos” line, that should grant Taco Bell entry into the fast food pantheon. Here’s why:
1. It’s extremely portable and convenient.
Have you ever tried to eat one of Taco Bell’s vaunted “5 Buck Box” meals while on the go? It’s nigh impossible. First of all, it’s nearly impossible to apply 25 packets of “Fire” sauce to a moving target, and when you’re mobile, you don’t have the opportunity to lay out your feast of sheer pennies worth of food all around you in a convenient array. And if any of the items you’ve selected contain both shredded lettuce and a crunchy shell*, you’re going to be blowing shards of iceberg and pressed corn into your cupholders all the way from Exit 29 to Exit 31B.
*Note: 100% of Taco Bell’s menu contains either shredded lettuce, a crunchy shell, or both. That’s just science.
The Crunchwrap Supreme solves these conundrums perfectly, offering all of the chain’s signature ingredients in a neat, tidy folded little envelope of spicy fake cheese and Pancho Villa’s tears. There’s just enough spiciness to allow you to forgo a hot sauce packet altogether, with all of Taco Bell’s craving-inducing flavors already present and accounted for. Simply put, there’s no tidier way to consume pretend Mexican food one-handed while hurtling a 3,000 pound machine along at highway speeds, and it’s about godamned time we acknowledged that.
2. It’s got that interstitial crunch layer.
It’s what elevated the Crunchwrap Supreme into the stuff of legend. Buried, right there in the middle of all of those pockets of reduced fat sour cream and meat slurry, its vaunted crunchiness almost turned to mush within seconds of serving, lay Taco Bell’s true genius: An extra layer of crunchy tostada shell, nestled right into the center. Obvious? Maybe. Genius? Unquestionably. No longer would we have to choose between the kind of Taco Bell eating experience we wanted, no more would “kind of wanting a burrito” or “maybe feeling like more of a taco situation” be an issue we would agonize over. Finally, we could have both. Flour. Corn. Soft. Hard. The Crunchwrap Supreme is truly all things to all people. It is democracy in action. Probably.
3. It is the only new food item that Taco Bell actually invented.
Taco Bell’s menu is, let’s face it, not tremendously varied. The chain figured out early on how to take a handful of ingredients, and spin them out into a few different form factors that all basically contain the same thing: A tortilla, some meat, some cheese, some goop. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating a Chalupa Supreme or a XXL Grilled Stuft Burrito; you’re getting the same ingredients, each presented in a slightly different way. Oh sure, the chain has innovated with its breakfast items and with things like the Doritos Locos line of tacos and gorditas. But even those items are riffs on actual Mexican food that already exists; you can wrap a taco in a gigantic Cool Ranch Dorito all you want, but it’s still basically a taco.
Not so with the Crunchwrap Supreme. Here, Taco Bell has taken nearly 60 years of fast food taco-making experience, and delivered its only true innovation to the field. The Crunchwrap Supreme has no Mexican counterpart, nothing South of the border for Mexican food purists to point to while decrying the chain’s lack of “authenticity.” Of course it isn’t authentic, and there’s not a single reason you should care, because you’re already eating at Taco Bell. The Crunchwrap Supreme belongs not to Mexico, but strictly to the bleach-scented back rooms of the Taco Bell Test Kitchen, and for this alone, it should be celebrated.