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DRIVE-BY DINING

It's big and it's proud

August 26, 2004|Adam Tschorn | Special to The Times

It's refreshing, in the midst of the current carb-conscious craze, to find at least one fast-food restaurant willing to swim against the tide. Taco Bell has unleashed a half-pound beef and potato burrito on the world as part of its "Big Bell Value Menu." This monster is 8 ounces of beef, potatoes, red sauce and green onions with a dollop of sour cream for the princely sum of $1.29. (For size comparison only, imagine something slightly smaller than the chain's Chihuahua mascot wrapped up in a 12-inch tortilla.) Drive-by Dining, never one to pass up a bargain, took the bait, hook, line and potato-laden sinker.

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Taco Bell beef and potato burrito

Taste

***

Hard to place but familiar at the same time, it lies somewhere between the hearty breakfast home fries of youth and the chili-topped French fries of drunken college nights. Though the Bell won't be winning a James Beard award with this one, it's as close to hearty comfort food as you'll find on its menu.

Portability

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I headed south on Vine Street, and the burrito was a tasty memory in just eight-tenths of a mile. It's relatively easy to unwrap and eat while driving (as long as it's eaten wide end down like an inverted ice cream cone). Special attention should be paid to the marble-sized chili-covered potato nuggets, just the right size to launch at the slightest tap of the brakes.

Diet watch

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If you're an Atkins aficionado or a South Beach soldier, you have two choices: Either stay far, far away from this "carb burrito" or eat three a day and spend all the money you save on a gym membership: 530 calories, 65 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams fat.

Hype-o-meter

***

Whether it's a gasoline giveaway promotion ("Filling your tank without draining your wallet") or a series of commercials ("I'm full"), the Big Bell Value Menu and its star torpedo burrito have been generating buzz. And really, how far wrong can you go at 16 cents an ounce? Isn't hay more expensive these days?

* Ratings are on a scale of one (lowest) to four (best).

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