After a year of harsh politics and compromised celebrity heroes, perhaps millenials were looking for a savior. As unpopular as this is going to be, Taco Bell Nacho Fries are not it. Based on the initial reviews I saw over the past two days one would assume that Taco Bell both created the best fast food french fry and also restored balance to war between good and evil. It’s done neither, and someone needs to say it.
My review is prefaced by the fact that I’m a Taco Bell expert. That’s based on the 11 months I worked at a Taco Bell franchise about 20 years ago. If you want to debate my credentials I’ll simply pull out my Taco Bell Manager’s Tie that I still keep in my closet. I don’t remember how I obtained it, but that whole time period is a blur. My tenure passed during that time they started selling “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” talking chichuahua plush dolls and Star Wars Episode 1 cups. We could chat for hours about my shenanigans as a Taco Bell employee (including the probable theft of the manager tie), but we need to discuss these french fries.
They’re mediocre. I don’t understand why people are freaking out about them. Have they never actually had french fries before? I sampled both the $1 order of Nacho fries and the $2.49 Nacho Fries Supreme on opening day and truly expected to be impressed but there were far too many failures to overcome.
Number 1, the fries were not crispy. They weren’t the most flaccid fries I’ve ever had, but the 7mm thick strips dropped under their own weight and offered almost no crust whatsoever. Back in my day Taco Bell had a fryer that we cooked the chalupa shells in (those also debuted during my employment), but I’d almost swear that these fries weren’t actually fried. They had the consistency and texture of oven fries, including broken bits (22 fry pieces, but the equivalent of about 14 whole fries) and the uneven paprika/cayenne seasoning.
Number 2, the seasoning was weak. It adds some color to the potatoes, but all this did was deceive me into thinking they were seasoned. I barely tasted any salt at all. Unsalted fries are a waste of time, even if you’re hiding that omission by covering them in other toppings. Someone needed to hit these with a salt shaker straight out of the fryer to help bring out the other red/orange spices they want us to taste.
Number 3, the nacho cheese is pathetic. People were all over Chipotle about their attempt at queso, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about Taco Bell’s nacho cheese. They should. Your $1 order to Nacho Fries comes with a small cup of it, but after dipping my unseasoned fries in the queso I realized that it’s about as flavorless as the fries. It’s partially hydrogenated oil with some yellow coloring. Yeah, it’s gooey, but gooey isn’t a flavor. I hit it with a packet of the Diablo sauce (kind of a smokey hot sauce) and that livened it up a lot. Without that assistance the cheese is exposed as the fraud it is.
I’m not anti fake cheese. A lot of the time I prefer American cheese on my hamburgers, and I have nothing against “fake” nacho cheese from a can or jar. In moderation this stuff will probably not kill you, and the flavors and texture are usually on point. Taco Bell nacho cheese is the milquetoast of queso.
Those points pretty much sum up the $1 Nacho fries. They’re not a terrible value at one dollar, but they’re also not good. I’d rather have a $1 small fry at any of a couple different fast food chains and I’d be more satisfied. However, the $2.49 Nacho Fry Supreme is a different beast. This one did a bit of the flavor doctoring for me by adding ground beef, sour cream, and tomatoes as toppings.
Yeah, it’s still the same boring nacho cheese and the same unseasoned fries, but the taco meat and sour cream really add something to the dish. The tomatoes were basically flavorless (as I’d expect from fast food pre-diced tomatoes in January), but some Hot Sauce and Fire Sauce brought the flavors of everything up another level. Did it rock my world? Absolutely not. But, I found the Nacho Fries Supreme a better value and better experience overall. You lose the convenience of being able to just dip the fries in a cup of cheese, but if you can sit down with a spork then I think you’ll be happier with the more expensive item.
In conclusion, the $1 Nacho Fries are okay. They’re not special. I give them a 5 out of 10 on my rating scale, which isn’t horrible for a fast food fry, but it’s nothing to brag about. The $2.49 Nacho Fry Supreme rose up to a 6 out of 10. Still not great, but a good value and certainly better than the fries alone.
Catalog: Sampled on 1/25 at the Taco Bell/KFC on 4th Avenue in Seattle