In a move that should surprise literally no one in food media (seriously, it feels like Taco Bell has been flogging this new promotion even harder than usual), Taco Bell today released their latest round of “shots fired” in the mounting fast food price wars. That’s right. French fries have (finally?) come to Taco Bell. But not just any old standard-issue fry. These are NACHO FRIES. From the press release:
“From the menu brand who brought you the Naked Chicken Chalupa and Crunchwrap Supreme, comes Nacho Fries, set to make their debut in restaurants nationwide for just $1. The most-anticipated menu item release of the year will be available crisped to perfection with bold Mexican seasoning and served with a dippable side of warm Nacho Cheese, beginning January 25.”
Okay, so the standard press release hyperbole is working a bit of overtime here. After all, my “most anticipated” new menu release item for this year is a toasted chicken parmesan sub that will watch Terminator 2 with me, pay my heating oil bill, and spawn additional, smaller chicken parmesan subs in a never-ending fried chicken feedback loop of self-replicating deliciousness that stretches out to infinity.
These? These are just cheese fries. But still.
A buck gets you a container of the new seasoned fries, with a sidecar of nacho cheese sauce. There’s also a “Supreme” version of the new french fries, which add seasoned ground beef, diced tomatoes, and the chain’s ever-present Reduced Fat Sour Cream for $2.49, with a “Bell Grande” version that doubles your quantity for just $5.
Taken on their own, the fries themselves fall somewhat short of a revelation. They’re pretty standard-issue seasoned fries, that never seem to get fully crispy. The seasoning adds color and texture, but little in the way of spicy flavor for these fries, which feel heavier and thicker than those at competing chains. It hardly matters, though: Pour on some of Taco Bell’s signature cheese sauce and a few dozen packets of Fire sauce, and Nacho Fries become a ridiculously inexpensive, mildly embarrassing, totally satisfying way to get all of Taco Bell’s craving-inducing flavors into your tum tum for just a dollar.
Adding ground beef, sour cream, and diced tomatoes carries this concept even further; for under three dollars, you can scratch your Taco Bell itch with a hot bowl of lightly spicy fixings that will rush through your bloodstream in an assault of sodium and MSG that will leave your body in “fight or flight” mode for hours.
As great a value as Taco Bell’s new “Nacho Fries” are, though, their real potential lays in another important detail. Taco Bell will now officially add their fries to any regular menu item, presenting near limitless levels of customization to the menu. Have you been dreaming of a California-style burrito, stuffed with fries and carne asada and guacamole? Play your upgrades right, and anything is possible.
At our local branch, the guy working the counter seemed reluctant; there didn’t seem to be a way for him to charge for this kind of request baked into the point-of-sale system, so he just added a dollar to our regular menu items before shouting special instructions to the beleaguered lunchtime kitchen crew. But trust us. THEY CAN DO IT.
Some items lend themselves better to the addition of fries than others. The “Beefy 5-Layer Burrito,” for example, didn’t benefit much from the fries, because the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito is basically a warm tortilla bag full of different other kinds of warm, Mexican-scented sweltering goo. The fries were just one more element to get lost in the mix.
Upgrading a Crunchwrap Supreme, however, proved revelatory. Totaling about five bucks, we were presented with a hefty, double-stacked version of Taco Bell’s Most Perfect Menu Offering, with the seasoned fries adding yet another textural element to an item that is already doing everything pretty much perfectly. It’s a hell of a lot of food, and sits in your stomach with a pleasant weight that lets you know that you’ve come to Taco Bell to do some damage.
Overall, the addition of Nacho Fries to Taco Bell’s repertoire probably isn’t, in itself, going to change much for the chain. It does align the menu more closely with competitor Del Taco, who have had fries available for years. And in their $1 dollar version, the fries do present another opportunity to get yourself a deeply satisfying snack for next to no money.
The product’s real potential, though, is in the nearly limitless combinations possible through adding fries to any other existing item. And if you don’t understand the significance of living in a world where you can buy a french fry-enhanced version of a Chipotle Chicken Loaded Griller, then dude? I don’t even know what we’re doing here, anymore.
Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries can be purchased ala carte, or as part of a $5 box combo meal that includes the fries alongside a Doritos Locos Taco, a Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and a medium drink, in stores nationwide beginning January 25th.