Ha! I'm just being dramatic, of course. I'm referring to Taco Bell's newest creation, that was just rolled out nationwide (in the U.S.) two days ago--the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Big deal, you may be saying, another chalupa--who cares? Well, this one is quite different. Instead of a flour or corn-based outer shell, this one consists of pressed fried chicken. Or, essentially, the Taco Bell version of KFC's Double Down sandwich, which I discussed in detail in my May 8, 2014 post.
Unlike KFC, though, I've always liked Taco Bell, albeit in a "guilty pleasure" sort of way. It started back in my high school days, when my friends and I would drive to the nearby one during lunch period (which was kind of tight, time-wise, as our school periods were only 42.5 minutes long). Up through the present, Taco Bell and the harder to find White Castle are my favorite fast food joints. I realize that Taco Bell, like most fast food places, utilize cheap, low-grade food. The 2000 GMO corn recall, and the furor over the "pink slime" beef in 2012 are just two examples of this, shall we say, relaxed attitude to using the highest quality ingredients. I further realize that Taco Bell is a perverted, American-ized approximation of authentic Mexican food. (The restaurant chain has opened up stores in Mexico on two occasions, but both closed down quickly, due to lack of sales. Evidently, and reasonably, Mexicans weren't big fans of consuming a watered-down, inauthentic copy of their traditional cuisine.) But, even with these sins admitted, I still enjoy it. I guess it's a cultural example of me being an ugly American. So my friends and I jokingly referred to it as "Taco Smell" and "Taco Hell," but many of us were still regular customers.
Taco Bell was started by a man named, of all things, Glen Bell. Bell started off with a hot dog stand, then expanded into a hamburger and hot dog stand, and finally switched to a taco stand. As he grew more successful, he opened up restaurants, called Taco Tias, then El Taco, then Taco Bell in the early 1960's. Bell sold the chain to PepsiCo in 1978, for over 120 million dollars. It's become a giant chain, with franchises around the world.
But back to the focus of this piece. I picked up my Naked Chicken Chalupa at around lunch time on its opening day. Structurally it looked like a taco, although it came with a cardboard stand to help keep its innards contained. Inside the fried chicken "shell" was lettuce, onions, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and an avocado sauce. As so frequently happens when I make fun of a food beforehand, the result was very good. I can't say it tasted like a regular taco or chalupa, but its distinct flavor was still impressive. I finished it eagerly, and I think I will buy this again. Keep in mind though, this product is listed as being available for a limited time. So, as with the Double Down, laugh at it if you want, but the weird mutant food item was a pleasing dining experience. (I was amused, but not very surprised to learn that the authentic Mexican chalupa, named after a type of boat, is very different from what Taco Bell calls a chalupa.)
Finally, Taco Bell had an advertising campaign that has the odd distinction of being popular, but which resulted in lower (or at least not markedly increased) sales, much like the Energizer Battery Bunny commercials. The Taco Bell chihuahua, who appeared in many ads saying, "Yo quiero Taco Bell!" ("I want Taco Bell" in Spanish) in the late 1990's/early 2000's, received a lot of attention, and acclaim. However, sales actually decreased afterwards. Advertising experts postulated that people may have thought that the dog was cute, and funny, but they may have then associated Taco Bell's products with dog food, which wasn't that appetizing! (On a sad note, that dog from the commercials, Gidget, passed away in 2009.)
Oh, and reportedly KFC is currently selling another unholy chicken abomination in the Far East, called a Chizza. This is a "pizza" which is sauce, cheese, and toppings on a "dough" made of fried chicken. I can't wait to try this one.