This was supposed to be a Dueling Dishes post on shrimp burritos between Del Taco and Taco Bell. But it turns out Taco Bell's Pacific Shrimp Burrito already sleeps with the fishes. It was their Lenten special last year. This year, the company is a little more than preoccupied with that whole Doritos shell game.
So who to pick as the shrimp burrito stand-in? Baja Fresh. Why? Because I said so. But it does seem appropriate: Baja Fresh, like Taco Bell, is headquartered in Irvine. And Del Taco is based in Lake Forest...so there's that.
But truthfully, Baja Fresh's shrimp burritos and Del Taco are different beasts from entirely different species. First of all, Baja Fresh's shrimp are griddled from raw, not battered and fried from frozen as Del Taco's obviously are.
And the burritos themselves are more expensive at Baja Fresh--$7.29 compared to Del Taco's $3.79. They're also twice as big as Del Taco's, which doesn't have the shape of a burrito as it merely resembles a hastily wrapped crepe. There's also the fact that Baja Fresh actually has four different burrito variations to choose from.
They do, however, advertise their Diablo Shrimp Burrito on their website above all other shrimp burrito iterations you might come up on your own. So that's the one I'm comparing to Del Taco's Baja Shrimp Burrito.
Baja Fresh's contender is certainly a gut-filling specimen, quietly spicy with a slowly building smoked chipotle salsa that's as dark as the black beans, and matches its earthiness. The problem is that all else is silenced in the presence of both. The rice practically disappeared, and if the shrimp weren't plump and plentiful, they would've been drowned out too.
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Del Taco's burrito has a zing to it. But also crunch thanks to cabbage and the pebbly breading on the shrimp. You don't taste the shrimp as much as you taste that which covers it. The rice was still fluffy; and a tangy, mayo-like sauce with a slight chile sting provided most of the flavor, but it was enough to make the whole thing sing.
The shrimp is of a better quality at Baja Fresh, but I am surprised to report that I actually liked the Del Taco burrito better. I remain curious on what Taco Bell's shrimp burrito was like...but perhaps in this case, ignorance is bliss.