October 17, 2010

Living large with Taco Bell's XXL Chalupa

It's been a while since the critique has sampled anything from Taco Bell -- a restaurant that is typically a mainstay of my culinary considerations. Other foods distracted with peppers, all-you-can-eat promotions and chocolaty coatings, leading this blog away from its most stalwart subject.

The return to The Bell had to be big. Extra big. Extra, extra big. You could say I wanted it to be XXL.

And wouldn't you know it? Taco Bell rolled out just the concoction to mark the occasion. They're calling it the XXL Chalupa. It's a jumbo shell nestling lettuce, salsa, cheeses and sour cream on top of your choice of meat.

When ordering I was pleasantly surprised to find I could choose between ground beef, chicken and steak. Taco Bell's promotional material has focused only on the ground beef option. Naturally I chose to go with chicken -- I recommend avoiding taco beef whenever possible. You never know exactly what's in there.

One other noteworthy ingredient in the XXL Chalupa is low-fat sour cream. I'll pause for a moment to let you absorb the fact that the restaurant is including low-fat sour cream on a dish whose calling card is over-the-top size. The chalupa is 650 calories, for Jillean Michaels' sake! Putting on low-fat sour cream is like skipping the 10-spoke alloy wheels on your $185,300 Mercedes SLS AMG because you don't want to spend the extra $2,400. When you're that far in the hole, why not finish digging the last couple of shovelfuls and complete the job?

Plus, I watched as the Taco Bell workers built my Chalupa behind the counter. The low-fat sour cream was shot out of a dispenser that looked like a jumbo caulk cannon. The dispenser was the size of a small boar, and probably contained enough fat to give Shiva Rea's entire yoga class a heart attack.

All that aside, I have to admit I'm impressed with the size of the XXL Chalupa. Taco Bell usually gives you pretty decent bang for your buck -- the $5 Box comes to mind -- but even so the XXL Chalupa is shockingly large. I needed both hands to hold it.

The high point of the dish is by far its shell, which is soft, moist and holds its shape so the Chalupa doesn't fall to pieces if you have to set it down. That's a good thing, because you'd practically have to be Mr. Universe to not get tired while holding this load of a meal.

The chicken is tasty, as are all the rest of the fixins', which are piled on so high that I wished I had an extra hinge on my jaw to take bites. I found it was helpful to eat from the top of the chalupa down, which minimized spilled lettuce and cheese.

I can tell you the chalupa weighed down my stomach with all that food. It also left my wallet a little lighter than I'd like. I paid more than $3 -- over a buck for every letter in the "XXL."

That price is really the only downside to the XXL Chalupa. And while I find it very hard to justify spending more than $2.00 on any one item from Taco Bell, this is the item to buy if you're going to do it. Therefore I can give the chalupa four sporks out of five.

Actually, you might want to think about bringing four sporks to eat it. The chalupa is that big. That extra, extra big.

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