Nostalgia is a fascinating emotion.
It leads some of us on online quests to acquire Sega Genesis smash hits, like Earthworm Jim, for the sole intention of casually displaying the game cartridge on our office shelves. And it convinces others to sign up for adult recreational kickball leagues in vain attempts to recapture that 7th grade playground glory. It also causes us to be looser with our wallets than the belt we wore on those baggy pants we made our moms buy for us at the Gap in 1995.
I probably shouldn’t be so cynical, but you’d have a hard time convincing me nostalgia didn’t play a major role in the success of Taco Bell’s Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Locos. I mean really; who among us didn’t pack a bag of Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch Doritos in our lunchboxes back in the day (besides kids with hippy parents)? Those crunchy, chemically perfected bombs of MSG and spices delivered the escape from the trials and tribulations of stupid stuff like long division and fractions. We totally had it made.
No wonder we all jumped at the idea of our favorite childhood chips becoming tacos.
The only problem was that for many of us, myself included, it felt like something was missing in the hugely popular Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos. It’s not that they were bad – heck, they were by all accounts pretty damn tasty – but there was just something missing from both flavors that made us wonder why our favorite chips didn’t translate into our favorite fast food tacos.
Enter the third phase of the Doritos Locos Taco rollout.
Inspired by the Flamas Doritos chips, the new Fiery Locos Taco hasn’t quite generated the pre-release fanfare of its more iconic big brothers. Since I live in a region of the country deemed to have a sizable enough gringo demographic as to not be attracted to anything remotely spicy, my access to bags of Doritos Flamas have been few and far between. From the few times I’ve had them I remember a deceptively spicy heat at the end and an odd lime flavor. Not odd as in it tasted like Sprite or something, but odd as in, “Hey, I’m a white dude and this is a completely unexpected flavor combination.”
Dare I say, I liked it.
But I didn’t love it. At least, I didn’t love it to the point where I’d consider trading away a turkey sandwich, two packs of Dunkaroos, and those awesome Bachman pretzel packs for a single snack-size bag of the Flamas Doritos, a barter I routinely made at the elementary school lunch table in order to acquire similar bags of Cool Ranch Doritos.
Knowing I didn’t have an intense feeling of love towards Flamas Doritos, my expectations for the Taco Bello Fiery Locos Tacos were mild. Not lower — ok, yes, to be honest a bit lower — but also, actually, realistic. Taking that into account, I gladly handed over $1.69 for the Supreme version of the taco, hoping the addition of cooling sour cream and bright tomatoes would add just the right counterbalance to what is billed as a spicy, lime-infused taco shell.
I started out by taking a few bites of the taco shell on its own, expecting the bright red color to scorch my tongue like a fireball from Super Mario. Oddly enough, it was the taste of the lime that I noticed first, a puckering, moderate acidity which then gave way to a nice, spicy heat at the back end. It’s spicy, but not too hot. And I believe it strikes an acceptable compromise.
I wasn’t crazy about the strength of lime flavor, which on its own was too astringent for my taste and, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough yellow corn flavor to balance it out. Fortunately, the lime is greatly reduced when taking a bite of the taco as a whole, with the salty yet slightly sweet ground beef and gloopy, why-are-you-so-yummy sour cream helping to meld all the flavors together.
Unlike some people, I don’t find the shredded, but mild, cheddar cheese to be an afterthought, and in the case of this particular taco, even the slight milky taste came together nicely. What I liked most was the taco’s parting shot — a peppery heat that arises from the ground beef spice flavor, it captures the perfect middle ground between distractingly hot and unacceptably bland.
The new Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos are very good in the Supreme form. Serving as a more spice-intensive canvas that needs only a slathering of Fire Sauce for those looking to scorch their taste buds, it’ll also provide a modest, but definite kick that gives it flavor and personality beyond the simple classifications of “hot” and “not hot.”
(Nutrition Facts – 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 390 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)
Item: Taco Bell Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos Supreme
Purchased Price: $1.69
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfectly constructed. Ends with surprising but not uncomfortable heat. Lime flavor doesn’t overpower with all the other flavors going on. Gloriously alchemized, highly-seasoned ground beef just works. Fresh veggies. Not getting let down by unrealistic expectations.
Cons: Lime flavor of the shell is too much on its own. Seasoning in the taco shell doesn’t extend all the way to the top. Tomatoes go jumping ship too easily. Always wishing for a little more beef in Taco Bell’s taco. Still waiting for a Jacked Doritos shell with epic crunch.