Gastronomicon: Taco Bell's Sriracha Quesarito revels in density and excess

Taco Bell seems to have always pursued edginess in new offerings. Sometimes, these fringe products find enough success to get rolled into the main menu, such as the Crunchwrap Supreme, a disrupted tostada specially crafted for thinkfluencers on the go, and the Gordita, a hard taco wrapped in a soft taco coveted by indecisive people and stoners around the world.

But for every Crunchwrap, patrons suffer another twenty products that could have only been pitched as “it’s a burrito, but it’s got Fritos in it” or “what if the chips were red.”

The Sriracha Quesarito is in that lesser, more populated camp, but in an elevated position, as it undoubtedly improves upon the original.

My esteemed co-worker and actually knowledgeable foodie Janelle Bitker and I hit the Taco Bell to investigate their zesty new offering. It’s a twist on their original Quesarito, a burrito wrapped in a quesadilla. This time around, they made their own “awesome” Sriracha sauce to drown out the rest of it.

We purchased the original and the sauced-up newbie, offered in seasoned beef, chicken and steak varieties (we chose steak for both).

Janelle quickly noted the dominant aroma of the Sriracha Quesarito (grease) and the unsettling herb flavor of the rice. The herb in question is likely cilantro stems, but I’m tempted to think that the rice’s green specks are detritus from the shrubs outside each Taco Bell franchise. The cheese, that strangely addictive, molten, neon stuff that is the only reason many ever enjoyed a Taco Bell foodthing, blends well with the sour cream, and the quesadilla wrap adds an enjoyably chewy texture. The steak tasted like a hot dog—an all-beef Ball Park Frank, specifically—and once I pointed this out to Janelle, she immediately agreed. All in all, a savory, flavor-dense experience.

But what about the Sriracha? Obviously, it wasn’t packing much heat. (Honest question: When’s the last time you hit a fast food joint for something spicy and the spice was actually brought?) It tastes like it must be mixed with mayo, because it’s more tangy and creamy than spicy and vinegary. Mayo or no, it’s in both the burrito and the quesadilla, and its presence makes the Quesarito markedly better. But why?

Janelle hit it up succinctly: “I like the Sriracha sauce because the Sriracha just masks everything.”

The takeaway? Get the regular Quesarito if you prefer to stare your questionable steak/hot dog food choices directly in the face. I wouldn’t buy either with my own money ($3.59 for the Sriracha with steak, $3.29 for the regular with steak), but if they replaced their “Latin rice” with a non-shrubby rice, I might come around to it.

We didn’t stop there. I couldn’t help but notice signage for the new Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch line, in Fiery, Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch variants (all at $2.89). Another sweaty-palmed squeeze at the udder of the Doritos cash cow, this is exactly what you’d think it is. Take the chemically dusted shells from the Doritos Locos and shove them into the Gordita flatbread. I found the Cool Ranch version didn’t really have much to add to the taste of the classic Gordita. Maybe we should have tried the Fiery. Regardless, a cheap effort.

As a longtime lover of the Crunchwrap Supreme, I also felt the need to pick up some Crunchwrap Sliders. I dunno how these escaped my attention, but it didn’t take long for me to wish that they had continued to do so. They take a good idea—sell fun takes on the Crunchwrap model at snack sizes for $1.69—and totally ass it up with those Fritos that they love to stuff into everything.

I don’t get it. Did Yum! Brands happen upon a long-forgotten cave rich with Fritos deposits and now find themselves saddled with a surplus in need of liquidation? Who decided that a BLT Crunchwrap could really use a domination of fried corn? Same for the Spicy Chicken. I shouldn’t be so pissy about this, but here I am, being pissy about an unnecessary brand synergy ruining what should have been a satisfyingly sub-par dining experience.

As a final thought, I decided to look up the nutritional information for the Sriracha Quesarito—always a great idea before eating and a horrible idea after. Before I tell you how much sodium is in this beast, know that the recommended maximum daily intake is about 2,300 milligrams. Pause for a moment and visualize a guess at the burrito’s sodium content. Got it? Good. If you guessed 1,720 milligrams, you’re too aware of the horrors of this world.

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