I think that other people might quietly be living a far more illustrious fast food life than me. When I make the trip for fast food, I never want to take a chance on a menu item that might not be worth the money (unless, of course, the task is to determine exactly that for The Takeout). So while other people have discovered all the best tactics for taking a Taco Bell order from satisfactory to sublime, I’ve mostly stuck to the Nachos BellGrande: safe, reliable, and exactly enough. But this week, I made my first trek to a Taco Bell Cantina, the chain’s urban format complete with boozy beverages—and to commemorate the occasion, I stepped outside my comfort zone to order my first ever Crunchwrap Supreme.
Confession: I’ve only ever ordered Taco Bell in analog fashion, by placing an order at the counter with the cashier. So when I walked into the Cantina and found myself confronted by a six-foot-tall digital ordering kiosk, I was reminded of just how much customization is available at a fast food chain where every menu item is composed of roughly the same five elements.
It’s not like scrolling through your phone placing a Grubhub order; the massive display means that the dozens of potential toppings and sauces are all fully visible, laid out in an aesthetically pleasing grid to command your attention. My eyes zoomed toward any instance of the word “jalapeño,” knowing what I know about how decidedly un-spicy Taco Bell food can be.
I ordered a ground beef Crunchwrap Supreme (the default option), then added Creamy Jalapeño Sauce, refried beans, and sliced pickled jalapeños. My husband, meanwhile, ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme but substituted chicken for ground beef and added extra lettuce, a set of decisions so baffling that I couldn’t even articulate a joke about them at his expense. But you know what? He doesn’t have to explain himself to me. This is Taco Bell, and this digital ordering kiosk has seen everything there is to see. We all live más in our own special way.
For the Crunchwrap experts in the audience, a sincere question: Has your Crunchwrap ever provided genuine crunch? I watched as a Taco Bell employee made my order, and I scooped up the bag within seconds of the Crunchwrap’s completion, eating it on site only ten feet from the assembly line. Even so, by the time I tore into my meal, the tostada had fully steamed inside its tortilla swaddle, rendering the once crunchy disc rather floppy. This wasn’t a huge issue, but I’m surprised people don’t gripe about this more often. Seems like the sort of thing the internet would love to gripe about. I guess, given all there is to complain about in the world, Taco Bell is more of a bright spot than a blight and is respected as such.
Stuffed as it is with all manner of crumbly things, the Crunchwrap has a structural integrity that I find rather astounding, given its heft. As long as I strategically chose the location of each bite, this thing could be taken down in a downright tidy manner. And then, of course, there was the joy of those bites.
For as much as I’ve heard about the Crunchwrap Supreme in its 17-year history, I must say that you all still managed to undersell it. Far more than the Nachos BellGrande and Chalupas of my past, this item confirms, in a way I probably couldn’t have articulated up until now, that what I truly want from a fast food experience is a little bit of ooze: a meaty, saucy, sour-creamy salve that demands almost nothing of me at all except to remain in place until there’s nothing left to indulge in. If chicken sandwiches grab hold of our attention with variable textures, Taco Bell seems to reassure us that none of its signature items need to be chewed all that much.
We like to give Taco Bell shit, but it understands its customers. The infinitely customizable menu is, of course, composed of complementary elements that can only ever taste delicious together, providing us all a sense of agency at the ordering kiosk while making it impossible for us to fail. My Crunchwrap Supreme was delicious, but it was never not going to be. And it’s nice spending the occasional $6.49 on a sure thing.