Tasting Taco Bell's Dare Devil Loaded Grillers--The Good, the Bad, and the Ghost Pepper
Let's do this
Photo by Marina Toft
As I'm sure you people all know, Taco Bell unveiled three new menu items recently, and even though I was out of town (and far away from my local Taco Bell), I pestered my editor and got his permission to go to town on the brand new, highly touted Dare Devil Loaded Grillers. Boasting three flavors with varying levels of spice, the Chipotle, Habanero, and - insert fanfare here - Ghost Pepper Grillers claim to offer "a flavor experience worthy of any adventurer." So, in the spirit of adventure, I enlisted my girlfriend's help, and decided to go into it blind, trying one griller at a time without knowing which is which, trusting solely in my tastebuds.
Of course, God has a mean sense of humor, and when I ventured out to this strange, out-of-town Taco Bell, I was met with awful service, downright terrible quality food preparation, and a shockingly surly staff. Granted, I soldiered on, but I'm not perfect - my experience in this shitty Taco Bell from Hell may have influenced my perception of the Grillers in some way.
Caveat 1: I am never - NEVER - going to talk shit on food service workers, unless they really, really screw up. Minimum wage employees put up with some serious shenanigans for low pay in an abusive corporate system. Not to mention, based on my personal experience, I can confirm that many of the terrible things that happen in restaurants are directly the result of garbage customers, not workers doing their best.
Caveat 2: I don't have high expectations for Taco Bell, yet, perhaps paradoxically, I love it. I could sing the Bell's praises for days. I use their app daily. I eat there biweekly. I tweet at them frequently enough that, if they were a person, and not a company, I would probably be considered some kind of stalker. But I don't raise the bar high for the Bell - I expect hot food vaguely inspired by Mexican cuisine that tastes the way I remember it did last time.
So, when I say that I had a terrible experience at this Taco Bell, I mean it was REALLY bad. Like, Bakersfield-after-10-pm bad. Like, the-way-my-old-vaguely-racist-grandma-thinks-Hawaiian-Gardens-is-bad, bad. The staff was super surly, every single customer looked like an extra from Breaking Bad, and they gave me the wrong food twice. But finally - FINALLY - I got my new Dare Devil Loaded Grillers.
And although the sauce-to-meat ratio was TOTALLY FUCKED UP, and the Grillers were way smaller than I thought, and all the ingredients were packed into one end of the tortilla, I STILL endured all three. I had my girlfriend (who is, somehow, not disgusted by me after all this) switch them around and note which was which, giving me a blind taste test. She also took a bunch of pictures and video of me being a disgusting pig-person, so, there you go.
Oh, also, Caveat 3? In the interest of true neutrality, I went back to a different Taco Bell and tried all three flavors again, to confirm my initial interpretations. I feel pretty much the same way.
Photo by Marina Toft
Blind Griller Taste Test #1: The Chipotle Dare Devil Griller I guessed this one right on the first couple bites. It was pretty bland and didn't have too much sauce to it, and because I'm this awful, I actually know exactly how Taco Bell's chipotle sauce tastes, so adding it to a tiny burrito containing only a pinch of tortilla strips, nacho cheese, and ground beef won't disguise the flavor from my veteran palate.
That being said, it doesn't really taste all that bad. Hard to go wrong, since roasted chipotle flavor meshes well with just about any "Mexican" meal, and this is all of your basic Taco Bell staples wrapped into one.
But let's be honest, even including this as the "mild" Dare Devil griller is a joke. It's not spicy. It's not even the Little League of spicy. It's about as spicy as barbecue sauce.
Blind Griller Taste Test #2: The Ghost Pepper Dare Devil Griller Here is where my blind faith in the Bell goes awry.
Halfway through this Griller, which is, admittedly, a little spicy, I decide it's the Habanero flavor. There's a slight hint of sweetness, and I'm even sweating a little (granted, I'm ethnically European, so most spicy foods automatically make me sweat, whether I'm feeling it or not), but it's not overwhelming.
Look, nobody out there expected the "Ghost Pepper Dare Devil Loaded Griller" to actually have serious amounts of Ghost Pepper in it, but when you name your burrito-thing after one of the world's hottest (look up the Scoville numbers, motherfuckers) peppers in the world, a pepper that Indian police use to make crazy pepper spray, I think people (at least, people like me), have a right to expect some spice.
So when I wrongly asserted this was the Habanero, once I was finishing, my lovely assistant had to inform me, over the grotesque masticating smacking noises popping out of my mouth, that I was wrong.
And although I was wrong, and the Ghost Pepper Dare Devil Griller was pretty weak, it was still easily the spiciest thing I had ever eaten at a Taco Bell, and it did leave a strong enough tongue tingle. Plus, it tastes nice.
Blind Griller Taste Test #3: The Habanero Dare Devil Griller My girlfriend didn't inform me right away that I had guessed wrong on the Ghost Pepper - she just confirmed for me that I had mixed the two up once I let a knowing look pass over my face. But once the guessing game had ended, and the taste-test portion of the meal was done, I was free to enjoy the last griller as pure fan of the Taco Bell product.
And I must say that the Habanero Dare Devil Griller is my favorite of the three.
Habanero peppers lend a slight sweetness, and since they're easier to come by than Ghost peppers, it's clear the Bell was able to obtain more actual extract for flavor's sake. It also manages to stand out beyond the cheese and beef and stain the tortilla, giving a greater sense of taste than the other two.
And since my tongue was already feeling the slight burn from the Ghost Pepper Griller, the habanero sauce really gave me a nice little tingle. This one? This is one I'll be ordering again. As is tradition, after all, I'm already considering ways to customize these new grillers with Taco Bell's ingenious app.
The future is now, kids.
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