Presumably everybody who’s read this site knows of my long-time love affair with Taco Bell. In fact, lore (ie the historically inaccurate recollections of my mom) has it that I never ate any real food until I had my first taco. (This probably means I was actually already enjoying hearty servings of osso buco and sweetbreads, but whatever.) Anyway, despite working at Taco Bell (including starting up a store from scratch, including picking styrofoam out of a ditch for about six straight hours – turns out there are a lot of packing peanuts in industrial kitchenware) for about three years, I still love the food, the atmosphere, the experience. So what kind of unfair fight would it be for me to pit The Bell against a relative newcomer, the local chain El Super Taco? Allow me to level the playing field by saying that El Super Taco is awesome, too. Now it’s completely fair. And, with the hype surrounding the launch of Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos tacos (the shell is made of nacho cheese Doritos – yes, it’s a f*cking great idea, wish I’d though of it) it seemed like writing a comparison would be a great way to justify eating a bunch of tacos in a short period of time.
Just to give you some contextual flavor, El Super Taco has been my happy place throughout a lot of my recent family medical drama (sounds like something you’d find on ABC Thursdays); it’s ostensibly a sit-down restaurant because they hook you up with chips and salsa, but it does more to-go business than anything. No alcohol, thus no margaritas, thus to-go looks like a pretty good option. I also just learned that the original El Super Taco is in the town where I currently reside, approximately one mile from where I sit with my dad almost every day. That one is just a Southern California-esque take-out window. I just tried it, and it sucks compared to the one (seedy-looking parking lot shown above) that I frequent. So I will continue to burn extra time/gas to enjoy the iPad-friendly, semi-air conditioned ambience of the sit-down El Super Taco.
So how do the offerings of both joyous places match up? Let’s consider a few categories:
Would you rather have three of these (four if you want to be completely comparable given the tip at EST):
Verdict: Despite the tastiness of the DL tacos that we will get to in a minute, the visual appeal of the grilled steak and pork at El Super Taco dominates the from-another-world orangeness of the Doritos Locos. El Super Taco wins the swimsuit category with conviction.
Verdict: Okay, there should probably be some more pictures, but this isn’t a food blog and people look at you weird around here for taking photos of your food. In fact, people look at you weird here whenever you aren’t eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet. But this is a very tough call; I am a huge fan of just plain crunchy tacos at TB, I could probably knock back 22 or so before starting to feel kind of full. And the Dorito Loco version is arguably an improvement on an already-strong product. That artificial cheese powder/sodium bomb experience at the end of each bite is an unexpected taste sensation. (Note: I avoided the word “salty” in the previous extremely descriptive sentence to avoid any “yeah, you like that salty stuff don’t you – so does your mom” commentary from TDiddy. I see the chessboard three moves in advance.) I will definitely eat them periodically. But – if my sh*tty photography permits it – take a look at those tacos from EST – they are f*cking delicious. And you get chips and two kinds of salsa (the red one of which changes consistency daily – sometimes watery, sometimes dense enough to stand a chip up in – but is excellent regardless) plus a quiet place to sit and read the NFL chats on ESPN.com (I read every division, not just the NFC West, perhaps I have a problem?) El Super Taco wins again.
Verdict: Okay, that was kind of unfair, because you can only get Fire Sauce at Taco Bell. But I didn’t want you to think that you knew how this was gonna end up. Taco Bell by a mile in this category.
Verdict: They cost the same. So for $6 you can leave a 30% tip and get two phenomenal grilled meat tacos with guacamole and a basket of chips and salsa. At Taco Bell, $6.06 gets you 4 Doritos Locos tacos, plus as much Fire Sauce as you can reasonably/responsibly grab. I could probably eat about 19 Doritos Locos tacos without feeling too full, but after eating the aforepictured meal at EST, I’m mostly full. Therefore, El Super Taco must be the better value.
Final Verdict: In what at a glance appears to be a shocking upset, El Super Taco is the clear winner. But the real winner here is me: I’ve finally found one cultural (food is in culture, right? or is that a bad word choice?) advantage to being in northwest Arkansas. So to all you people reading this in your cool cities, with your ivory towers and your delicious Indian food – take a good long look at that adovado taco up there. It’s pretty f*cking good. (And, to be clear, this ain’t no dis of the DL tacos – they are legit. Try them, you will enjoy them. Warning: your fingers will be orange when finished, despite that cardboard sleeve thing – nobody uses that. Also – if they ever launched a Doritos Locos Fiery Habanero taco, good god. Now THAT would be redonk.)