Call me cheesy, but I love a good romance story -- especially the ones involving myself and Taco Bell. There's the one about me and the Caramel Apple Empanada, blissfully skating through life high on a sugar rush. There's the one about the Triple Double Crunchwrap, a whirlwind on-again-off-again relationship. And there's the one about the innovative and timeless Doritos Locos taco, a very Fiery love affair.
Not all good love stories have happy endings, though (haven't you ever seen Titanic?!). Taco Bell recently announced it's axing nine menu items, including the Cool Ranch and Fiery Doritos Locos Taco (Caramel Apple Empanada was kicked off the menu months ago, RIP). In their place, however, Taco Bell has also offered what's perhaps a token of consolation: the all-new Toasted Cheddar Chalupa.
The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa is meant to satisfy all your cheese dreams as Taco Bell's "biggest food innovation of the year." Instead of a regular Chalupa shell, the new menu item touts a cheese-infused shell that's described by Taco Bell as "a crispy blanket of flavor and texture." Inside is your choice of protein (steak, beef, or chicken), sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese.
Will this Chalupa help me forget the other items that are disappearing?
Unfortunately, no. You would think Taco Bell would knock this one out of the park since the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa checks off all things I like: cheese, meat, Taco Bell. It's also one of the chain's biggest new menu item launches recently, spanning multiple countries.
And yet some way, somehow, it fell flat. I was expecting a crunchy, shattering shell overwhelmed with the flavor of six-month aged cheddar -- something unforgettably savory that would entice to come back bite after bite. What I got was a semi-chewy chalupa shell (akin to panfried roti or stale mochi) that had a mildly salty -- maybe cheesy? -- flavor. I expected to be hit by an avalanche of cheese, but all I got was a flurry.
For something that has been touted as a "whole new cheese experience" by Taco Bell, I'm underwhelmed. The Toasted Cheddar Chalupa mostly tasted like a blend of T-Bell's standard seasoned beef and sour cream, which -- don't get me wrong -- I usually love. But bring on the cheese! If I wanted beef and sour cream, I'd order a soft taco and move on with my life.
Can the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa be saved?
If Taco Bell is going to advertise the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa as this explosively cheesy thing, I want explosively cheesy. Give me nacho cheese sauce! Give me extra shredded cheese! Give me something memorable. As of now, I find the Toasted Cheddar Chalupa to be forgettable. That's not something anyone can say about its predecessor, the Naked Chicken Chalupa.
Alongside more cheese, I think some added crunch would help, too. Perhaps some crushed Fritos a là the Beefy Crunch Burrito, or a shell fried for a bit longer. Though the chalupa can be made with ground beef, chicken, or steak, I don't necessarily believe changing the protein would alter my feelings towards the latest stunt food creation because I had no qualms about the beef, only the lack of cheesiness and crunchy texture.
As of now, it seems like the loss of the nine menu items will only feel more gut-wrenching. It's not me, Toasted Cheddar Chalupa, it's you.