Taco Bell Is Actually One Of The Better Fast Food Restaurants Out There

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Taco Bell Is Actually One Of The Better Fast Food Restaurants Out There

Fast food, in general, is not good, whether you’re concerned about flavor, health or quality. Fried chicken is not typically regarded as a health food; mass-produced burgers are rarely considered gourmet; onion rings tend not to be viewed as the pinnacle of culinary prowess. But if you’re going to opt for fast food over homemade meals or better-quality restaurants, some options are better than others.

But when you think of a decent fast food joint, Taco Bell is likely not the first chain to come to mind. The Mexican-inspired fast food behemoth has long received scathing criticism regarding its supposedly low-quality meat and purportedly unhealthy menu items. A particularly well-publicized lawsuit against the company claimed its “beef” was actually only 36% beef, an assertion which was later revealed to be untrue. The company then spent millions of dollars to clear the air, hoping to redeem itself, but in some ways, the idea that Taco Bell delivers particularly bad fast food remains in the zeitgeist.

I’ve had a different experience with the brand. When I was following a vegan diet back in 2014 and 2015, it was one of the few cheap restaurants in my small suburban town that offered anything I could eat other than fries. This was before the days of the ubiquitous Impossible Burger, and I was deeply grateful for late-night black bean Crunchwrap Supremes and 5-Layer Burritos when the munchies hit. And unlike the oil-soaked McDonald’s and Wendy’s meals I had enjoyed in years prior, these indulgences never made me feel bloated and heavy the way a Big Mac would.

Am I saying that Taco Bell sells the most delicious tacos I’ve ever eaten? Of course not. But most of us don’t go to fast food restaurants because we’re looking for top-quality cuisine—we go because we’re looking for a quick, cheap and easy meal. And although I think we should avoid seeking out these qualities in our foods whenever possible, sometimes, convenience is the most important factor to consider when you just need to get something in your stomach.

Admittedly, though, the vegan options I tried at the chain weren’t bad. When you swap out the cheese and sour cream with pico de gallo, the result is fairly innocuous, fairly flavorful and generally satisfactory—and actually quite fresh. Add in some Fire Sauce, and a lot of Taco Bell’s lighter options are quite enjoyable.

It’s not just about the flavor, either. Despite all the hate it gets, Taco Bell is technically one of the healthier fast food options available, particularly when you opt for the more veggie-heavy options. And considering that it’s quite a bit less expensive and more accessible than “healthy” fast casual chains like Sweetgreen and Chipotle, it’s safe to say that the Bell gets a lot of unfair, undeserved hate.

At its core, Taco Bell is all about simplicity (despite its occasional penchant for undeniably weird menu items), with fresh veggies, beans and simple proteins taking center stage. This general focus on whole ingredients makes TB a go-to for me on days when cooking seems like a monumental task and I don’t want to spend more than $10 on a meal.

Don’t get me wrong—Taco Bell is part of the industrial food system, which is terrible for the environment, for human health and for the general enjoyment of food. I’m certainly not saying you should ever skip out on a decent meal for Cantina Chicken Burrito. But the fact is that we live in a world where, sometimes, fast food can seem (and be) unavoidable. At those times, I’d rather opt for Taco Bell than McDonald’s, any day of the week.

So, to all the Taco Bell haters out there who scoff at my Spicy Potato Soft Taco, all I have to say is: You’re wrong. I hope that, someday, you see the light and sacrifice your McNuggets in pursuit of a Veggie Power Menu Bowl. In the meantime, you can catch me crunching on some Cinnamon Twists.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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