Review: Dollar Cravings Menu from Taco Bell
When I found out that Taco Bell was doing a value menu facelift, I spent way too much time trying to decide what I wanted to review. In the end I figured, why not review it all… everything. The commitment to cover the entire Dollar Cravings Menu isn’t too daunting when you figure it’s just 11 bucks plus tax. What is kind of intimidating is that I’d be consuming approximately 2840 calories for lunch.
But is 2840 calories really all that scary? Nah, I had a slice of cheesecake the other day that was around 1400 calories so how bad could it be? I guess the fear of growing sick of eating all that Taco Bell is something on my mind. Because of this I decided to leave most of the products I’ve encountered in the past for the end. There are 11 items on the Dollar Cravings Menu… a bunch of them were already on the old Why Pay More value menu and some are brand new. We’ve covered at least four of these products on GrubGrade before, but let’s revisit them anyway and tackle this menu in its entirety. Time to eat!
Beefy Mini Quesadilla: Seasoned beef combined with creamy chipotle sauce and a three cheese blend, folded in a freshly grilled flour tortilla. 210 calories. This is a new item on the Taco Bell menu and one that I was most excited for. Taco Bell impressed me a lot with their Double Steak Cantina Quesadilla so any new quesadilla on the menu has got my attention. I’d say this quesadilla had most of its flavor impact from the seasoned beef and maybe that’s because I’m so used to chicken or steak quesadillas at Taco Bell. The chipotle sauce complemented the beef with some smokiness and mild heat. I’d likely order this again and say it’s a solid 7.50/10.
Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla: Shredded chicken combined with a three cheese blend, folded in a freshly grilled flour tortilla. 180 calories. Another new item and I was eager to try this one too. There was less sauce with this quesadilla and I’m wondering if there is chipotle sauce or is it just the shredded chicken marinade of “Mexican spices”. More impact from the cheese on this one over the beef version, but if you think Taco Bell’s shredded chicken tastes a little funny, as many of you have mentioned, you’ll want to stay away. Although both beef and chicken versions show to be the same weight, the chicken version didn’t feel as hefty. I preferred the Beefy… I’ll put the chicken version at a 6.25/10.
Spicy Tostada: A crunchy tostada shell topped with hearty beans, crisp lettuce, real cheese, tangy red sauce and creamy chipotle sauce. 200 calories. The Tostada has been off and on my local Taco Bell’s menu for years. This meatless option is exactly the same except for the added chipotle sauce. The flat, hard taco shell felt like it needed a few more seconds to get a little toastier. As you might imagine, the Spicy Tostada is difficult to eat… it’s stuck in between wanting to be a bad salad and a meatless taco. Not really sure what the point was to have tangy red sauce plus creamy chipotle sauce. I guess the chipotle sauce gives it the “Spicy” name, but if you’re looking for something spicy, you should look elsewhere. I didn’t care much for this and give it a 4.25/10… it’s probably on this new Dollar Cravings Menu because there isn’t much to it and fits the dollar price point.
Cinnamon Twists: Crispy, puffed corn twists, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. 170 calories. This is my first chance to kind of mix it up and take a little break from cheese and sauce. At this point in my meal I began to munch on Cinnamon Twists and ration them throughout. These light, crunchy puffs of cinnamon sugar acted as my pallet cleanser from here on out. I’ve had them before back when I reviewed the Volcano Box and gave them a 6.25/10 score. My impressions haven’t changed much except for this is one of the menu items that seems slightly overpriced. You get a good amount of Twists, but it weighs nothing… like eating sweet, crunchy air.
Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito: Hearty beans, cilantro rice, warm nacho cheese, and creamy jalapeno sauce wrapped up in a flour tortilla. 420 calories. I figured at this point I should make sure to get the rest of the stuff I’ve never had before out of the way before I fall asleep. The Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito is a nice vegetarian option and it’s got a decent weight to it. This feels like the first really good value item so far. I liked the creamy jalapeño sauce as a welcome change from chipotle sauce. The cilantro rice lightens flavors up where the nacho cheese and jalapeño sauce don’t get lost… overly seasoned rice would’ve screwed it up. I will get the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito again and I’d say it was one of my favorites so I’m giving it a 7.75/10.
Beefy Fritos Burrito: Seasoned beef, Frito® chips, and cilantro rice wrapped in a flour tortilla and filled with warm nacho cheese sauce. 440 calories. This burrito is the same size as the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito, but somehow the meatless option was more satisfying for me… maybe it was the “hearty” beans that did it? The real draw for this is obviously going to be the Fritos. Unfortunately they lacked a good crunch and couldn’t do much to add to the experience (honestly they seemed stale and not just softened by the surrounding warm ingredients). The Beefy Crunch Burrito wasn’t exactly perfect, but next to this it was so much better. I’m sure this will sell well… yet a bit lacking in my opinion so it gets a 5.50/10 score.
Caramel Apple Empanada: A crispy golden pastry pocket filled with chunks of warm apples in creamy caramel sauce. 310 calories. We’ll call this the “blind spot” in my 20+ year relationship with Taco Bell. The Caramel Apple Empanada has been on the menu for years, but I’ve never been tempted to order it. I’m glad I finally had it because I loved it and will give it a 8.00/10. Great crust, sweet chunks of softened apple swimming in a warm caramel. Nothing new… yet new to me and it’s delicious.
Spicy Potato Soft Taco: A warm soft tortilla filled with crispy potato bites, real cheddar cheese, crisp shredded lettuce and creamy chipotle sauce. 250 calories. We reviewed the “Crispy Potato Soft Taco” back in 2009 and the old version had Pepper Jack sauce and this version has… you guessed it, creamy chipotle sauce. The Potato Soft Taco is one of my go-to’s when grabbing a bunch of cheap a la carte Taco Bell grub. The potatoes are seasoned well, crispy, and might have me thinking that going meatless wouldn’t be so hard with these around. I like this a lot. It was hard to distinguish the Spicy Potato Soft Taco from previous incarnations with a different sauce. I wasn’t the reviewer for the original post from 5 years ago… I liked it more than a 5.50/10… I’d score it 7.50/10.
Cheese Roll-Up: A flour tortilla rolled up with a three cheese blend melted to perfection. 180 calories. I reviewed this no-frills item back in 2010 and gave it a 6.00/10 score. Yes it’s very simple and likely too plain for even a child, but I’ve grown to really like it and make it a regular add-on to many Taco Bell orders. Like the Cinnamon Twists, the Cheese Roll-Up (57 grams serving size) feels overpriced when you put it alongside a heftier item like the Beefy Fritos Burrito or the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito (each clocking in at 181 grams serving size). I’m not too phased by the price when I feel this perfect grubbing on the go option is purchased as an accomapaniment to a bigger item on the Dollar Cravings Menu.
Triple Layer Nachos: Freshly prepared, crisp tortilla chips, hearty beans covered in warm nacho cheese sauce and topped with a tangy red sauce. 320 calories. The key words here are “Freshly prepared” because if you don’t eat these chips within 10 minutes they tend to lose the all-around crunch. I was way too kind in 2009 when I reviewed these alongside two other nacho plates. If you can eat these while still piping hot you will hurt your mouth and rejoice in crunchier chips. For just a dollar it might be worth the risk. The refried beans, nacho cheese sauce and red sauce were all distributed fairly with a decent trio of textures and flavors. The chips need some work… 5.00/10.
Cinnabon Delights 2 Pack: Warm, golden bite-sized pastries filled with Cinnabon® frosting and covered with Makara® cinnamon sugar. 160 calories. What a nice way to end a meal. I love these. 8.25/10 is the grade I gave them recently… one of my current favorites. That creamy sweet frosting center is perfect… the price however is far from perfect. You’re only getting two Cinnabon Delights when previously they were priced at $1.49 for 4.
So if we’re going by an overall average of GrubGrade scores, the Dollar Cravings Menu gets about a 6.50/10. The way I see it, there’s plenty of variety so you’re likely to find a few favorites in the mix. I love value menus and when they’re set up where everything is the same price, I love them even more. Spending a few bucks to create your own combo is what I wish for at every fast food restaurant.
Pros: Taco Bell has solid desserts... who knew? Really enjoyed the Cheesy Rice and Bean Burrito and will definitely get it again. Eleven choices. Nice variety of choices.
Cons: Half of the non-dessert items feature creamy chipotle sauce so that got a little boring. A few bad value items in the bunch (Cinnabon Delights are awesome, but got a hefty price hike).
Grubbing on-the-go: 6.50/10