Value menus are a saving grace when you want fast food without the high price tag, and with much of the UK I’ve been a longtime fan of McDonald’s Saver 99p menu. However, it’s far from the only decent one out there.
American-style Mexican restaurant chain Taco Bell, for example, also offers a Craving Value menu. Ranging from £1 to £2, the low-cost range offers much of the menu, from tacos to ‘baby-friendly’ burritos in smaller sizes, plus two specialty desserts like churros.
Intrigued by the rival American Imports menu saver, I headed to Taco Bell to pick up all eight items and find out if any were worth their salt. And, somewhat surprisingly, almost all of them were.
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Seasoned fries with nacho cheese sauce
Taco Bell’s Seasoned Fries and Nacho Cheese Sauce are two of its most popular signatures, so I was delighted to see them listed on the Cravings Value menu for £1. Back home, the pot of yellow cheese and fries coated in a red-orange spice mix were slightly ominous.
The chips were medium thick, very well coated in seasoning, and had a chewy interior that brought out the notes of paprika, chili powder, and garlic. The creamy cheese was a perfect accompaniment. I normally crave ketchup with fries but didn’t run out of any at all.
Nachos with nacho cheese sauce
I had high hopes for Nachos, which promised to be the same as seasoned fries, such as tortilla chips. However, these missed the mark for me.
Although the packet was filled to the brim with crisps and certainly contained more than, say, a 30g bag of Doritos, I felt like I wasn’t getting as good a deal as with the crisps heavier. More importantly, however, the flat, dry crisps tasted bland compared to the fries, despite applying the same spice blend.
Chewy Crispy Chicken Taco
I’ve only had one soft shell taco from Taco Bell before and it disappointed me so I went into this £2 menu item with definite reservations. My fears were first confirmed when I unboxed it to reveal what was definitely the saddest of all objects in appearance.
A pale, crumpled tortilla topped with a mound of lettuce and white sauce stared at me. There was no chicken in sight at first – but a few gentle probing soon revealed a large golden fillet hidden below. Said chicken was about the size of a McDonald’s Chicken Select – although a bit shorter and bigger – but with a delicate, crispy buttermilk coating. The meat itself was tender and of high quality. I reluctantly decided to order it again.
Baby Spicy Chicken Burrito
Taco Bell has two “baby” burritos on its value menu. Each is made with the tortilla size you would normally expect from a burrito, but seems to have between a third and a half the usual amount of fillings.
My first bites felt like there was a decent amount of seasoned chicken, however, later bites revealed that was more true for the middle only. The chicken cover tapered towards the ends. Taste-wise, it was surprisingly zesty and fresh thanks to the jalapeños, with a generous, evenly spread coverage of sour cream that also balanced the spices well.
Beefy Baby Burrito Nachos
The Beefy Nacho Baby Burrito is the beefiest thing on Taco Bell’s Cravings Value menu in more ways than one. Not only was it significantly bulkier than the Spicy Chicken, but its flavors were also more potent.
Inside was a mixture of gooey cheese sauce, ground beef and tortilla chips that was rich and indulgent. Although it was made with the same size tortilla as the Spicy Chicken, its amplified flavor meant it felt full of substance and flavor, even in the corners.
The £1 Cheesy Roll-up is exactly what it sounds like: a plain tortilla that’s been filled with melted cheese and rolled up into a thin cigar shape. About half the size of Baby Burritos with a barely toasted pale face and a few strands of frozen cheese at its seams, it’s definitely one of the saddest dishes on the menu. And also one of the most delicious.
Cutting it revealed a spiral of Fibonacci dough interspersed with cheese that was mostly pale yellow and translucent but with some flecks of orange. The taste was a simple and effective combination of spongy dough and tart cheese.
I was aware while polishing it in a few bites that I could certainly do it at home for much less than £1 a piece – and that’s the only reason I don’t give it full marks. When you’re on the go and need a light snack, this is a definite winner.
Taco Bell’s £1 churros had one of the strongest – and most delicious – smells of the lot, and that was the main driver of how quickly I got home. As I ripped one of the two cracked loops from the bag, the smell of sugar, oil, and cinnamon briefly transported me to an imaginary carnival donut stand.
It wasn’t as hot or chunky as those donuts would have been, but it was definitely as cheery, with a suitably crispy, ridged exterior and an oily (but not greasy) interior. Heaven.
My first thought upon taking the packet of Cinnamon Twists out of the bag was that it was alarmingly light. Was I wronged on this article? I counted 12 in the pack and decided maybe not.
The value of this item was confirmed when I bit into the first twist and found it had the exact same flavor as my beloved churros. The texture, meanwhile, was an unexpected combination of chewy, airy, and crunchy that fell somewhere between shrimp crackers and pork scratchings. A little confusing but also very greedy and tasty.
Taco Bell’s Cravings Value menu is underrated and it’s a hill I’ll die on. I can’t believe I slept on it for so long and I wouldn’t recommend it either. Almost all of the 1 and 2 pound items were worth it to me – except the nachos – but especially the seasoned fries with nacho cheese sauce, the beefy nacho cheese burrito, and the churros.
I also loved the Cheesy Roll-up and I would 100% take it as a snack on the go and I was craving something simple and tasty, although I wouldn’t call it as it’s worth it like the others. With the exception of the Beefy Nacho Cheese Burrito, most dishes aren’t particularly hearty on their own, so you’d want at least two, maybe three, but there’s enough choice on this menu alone that you can create a meal for £3 or £4 and offer your taste buds plenty of variety and pleasure.
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