One of my favorite recurring features on Nooga.com, Chattanooga’s digital newspaper of record, is Date Night Dining. Each week, lifestyle blogger Sean Phipps and a plutonic companion visit a local restaurant to share scrumptious meals and stimulating conversation. This week, Sean visited his local Taco Bell alone to sample a menu item the company is presently test-marketing in the Scenic City. While I abhor fast food, I crave exclusivity. So Nooga.com’s recommendation was all it took to tip the scales and send me to my nearest Taco Bell. Aaaaaand for the second week in a row, I’m sad to report that I was disappointed by Nooga.com’s recommendation for Mexican food.
Saturday afternoon I ventured a few feet outside of my SouthSide comfort zone to the Taco Bell on Broad Street. Having never visited a refuge camp, I can’t say this with any certainty, but the depraved squalor I witnessed reminded me of stories I’ve heard on WUTC about life in Aleppo or South Sudan. Napkins and straw-wrappers littered the floor. A table in the corner had not been bussed. Instead of the sleek polished concrete floors I’m accustomed to in SouthSide dining concepts, this Taco Bell’s floors were made of tiles. The seats were made of plastic. Everything looked cheap and designed for easy clean-up rather than comfort or style. I saw nothing hashtag-able.
The line was long and slow, giving me ample opportunity to eavesdrop on the plebeians surrounding me. I wasn’t the only one there to try the new Beefy Crunch Burrito, and I was able to glean some insight into why the burrito holds such a mythical place in the hearts of these sad Taco Bell devotees. Apparently, it all comes down to a few spicy tortilla chips that they sprinkle inside a regular burrito. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why they were so excited. Maybe if the chips had been described with words like ‘artisanal small batch’ or ‘house-made’ I could understand the frenzy.
I knew it would be an exercise in futility, but I went ahead and asked the chef where the beef was sourced and if he knew anything about humane farming practices or the presence of GMOs. Predictably, he didn’t. But at least I had the chance to impress the people in line behind me with my exhaustive knowledge of important social issues.
Considering the Beefy Crunch Burrito is priced at only one dollar, it’s hard to complain about the size. But I need to complain about the size. It’s small and thin and flaccid just like something that is small and thin and flaccid. It’s mostly layers of folded tortilla with a pocket of non-distinct goop inside. Somewhat surprisingly for a burrito whose first name is “Beefy,” I had a hard time finding any beef in my Beefy Crunch Burrito.
After only a couple of bites, I decided I had punished myself enough and generously donated my uneaten leftovers to the man seated next to me, who was poor enough to be eating at Taco Bell unironically.
Granted, Nooga.com is strategically obligated to be happy about everything in Chattanooga. And there’s a chance that Nooga.com’s restaurant critic received a more soundly constructed Beefy Crunch Burrito than I did. But I’m having a hard time reconciling my own experiene with the positive review I read online and the nearly 7-minute video of the live burrito eating experience posted to their YouTube channel.
So if you’ve read the Nooga.com review of Taco Bell’s new Beefy Crunch Burrito and you’re considering some last minute changes to your brunch plans… DON’T DO IT! Text Chelsea and Madison right now and say, “Hey girl… I’ll meet you at the Flying Squirrel!”