I used to hate crunchy tacos.
My grandfather would try so hard to get me to like them when we went to Taco Bell for “39-cent crunchy taco night,” but usually ended up paying the extra 10 cents so I could get soft tacos instead. I can’t tell you why I didn’t like them, but it was a preference that followed me well into my late 20s until something clicked.
It is probably too dramatic to say I heard angels singing, but it’s the truth. Since then, they have been my preferred taco of choice, particularly Taco Bell’s crunchy beef taco (sorry, Grandpa). Its simplicity is one of the reasons why they are so satisfying. Rarely will I venture out of the standard build (shell, meat, cheese, lettuce), but every so often, Taco Bell will tempt me away with a new product, like it did with its Cantina Crispy Melt Taco.
The menu item is made with a white corn tortilla that is fried in-store daily, then layered with nacho cheese sauce, three-cheese blend, seasoned beef, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, and (yet more) shredded cheddar cheese. Two things about this item caught my attention immediately: the freshly fried in-store white corn tortilla and the sheer amount of cheese involved with it. With the white corn shell, I was curious how it would differ from the standard yellow corn shell in both structural integrity and flavor. I was a bit wary about the amount of cheese involved, particularly the nacho cheese.
Look, I’m no stranger to cheese, but crunchy tacos can go from crunchy to soggy rather quickly, and I was worried the dairy would expedite that process. Much to my surprise, it all held up exceptionally well. The white corn offers a much more mild flavor than the yellow corn. I wouldn’t quite say it’s bland, but it’s certainly not the star flavor-wise.
Its texture, though, exceeded my expectations. It was airy and light, but managed to stay strong after the 15-minute car ride home. With my first bite, it didn’t shatter or split. In fact, it did not break apart until the end.
The nacho cheese was the strongest flavor, with the seasoned beef and sour cream coming in next. I couldn’t quite tell you if the three cheese blend added to it in any way, but it didn’t detract. I was also pleasantly surprised that the cheese didn’t cause the seam to get soggy and split apart. The rest of the toppings (lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese) felt sort of like a take-it-or-leave-it situation, but I often find those Taco Bell ingredients to be that way.
While I don’t find the Cantina Crispy Melt Taco too groundbreaking, it’s an interesting detour from the standard crunchy taco, and it’s worth trying once. The standout was the shell, but mostly for how well it held up and not because it added to the taste profile. But if you are a fan of the nacho cheese, I think you will very much find this to be a home run.
Purchased Price: $2.19
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 280 calories, 17 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.