Ode to Taco Bell

Over my four years in college, a lot has changed: I’ve lived in four different apartments, been both single and madly in love, performed onstage in front of thousands and even spent an entire day locked in my room crying over a boy band (I still love you, Zayn). Through all these ups and downs, there has been one steadfast quality that has guided me through all my decision-making; a defining element of my character that truly helps me navigate through each and every day: I fucking love Taco Bell.

It’s true. I’ve sat for probably hours in their drive-thru line, waiting to pull up so I can give my painstakingly memorized order, as important in my mind as any childhood memory: “Crunchwrap Supreme with beans instead of beef, Spicy Potato Soft Taco and a cup of water, please.” I have a baggie of Taco Bell hot sauces not only in my own fridge, but at my parent’s house and my significant other’s house, just in case I’m ever caught in an instance of flavorless food and need a fast fix. I counted down the days until they released their new hot sauce flavor — #Diablo — and have adopted it into my home, grabbing fistfuls of the stuff every time I leave the restaurant.

So, what’s my deal? Why am I head-over-heels for some Tex-Mex fast food chain?

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that Taco Bell is one of the best eating establishments we, as students of UC Irvine, have access to. No, not just when you’re inebriated (Dear Mom: which, for me, is never) or when it’s 1 am on Wednesday of finals week and your only options are Taco Bell, Jack or DelSushi — but always.

What might be my most valid reason: Mexican food’s flexibility with regards to vegetarian diets applies to all levels of its cuisine, even in its lowliest and most inauthentic forms. Taco Bell is a safe haven for vegetarians! You can replace the meat in basically any dish with refried beans, and they have a couple of potato-based items on the menu (like the aforementioned Spicy Potato Soft Taco) that seriously give any steak-based item a run for its money. Keep to your morals and save your money! No longer will vegetarians have to spend $10+ on Chipotle and those overrated sofritas (don’t even get me started).

In the game of fast-food breakfasts, Taco Bell is on the rise. It has taken over the number one spot in my heart, previously owned by McDonald’s, whose McGriddles fueled many an early morning road trip. But how can one not succumb to the California AM Crunchwrap: a guacamole-and-pico de gallo-infused, scrambled egg concoction atop hash browns, all wrapped inside a grilled tortilla?

The breakfast combo includes this bad boy and a couple of Cinnabon Bites, cinnamon sugar morsels filled with warm icing, making for a sweet companion to a savory main dish. Taco Bell breakfasts now bring about good memories of me picking up a quick breakfast before early morning meetings with my friends and hangover cure meals, hashing out the sordid details from the night before.

Despite my love, I know that Taco Bell isn’t necessarily considered the classiest joint. As I’m pretty vocal about my love for the place, I’ve had to deal with jokes and comments from friends who would “never step foot into a Taco Bell sober.” I don’t let it phase me. People can hate all they want, but when you find a portable lunch cheaper and tastier than a Crunchwrap Supreme, give me a call.

That brings me to my next point: as far as trashy pseudo-Mexican places go (trashy = use of nacho cheese and presence of a drive-thru), Taco Bell is king. Why would you go to Del Taco for a quesadilla accompanied by a bucket’s worth of grease when you could have the cheesy-saucy filling of a Taco Bell quesadilla? I literally feel like I have to wash my face after every bite of a Del Taco meal. People may prefer Del Taco because of the burgers and french fries on their menu, but if you’re hungry for a burger, I’ve got this little place you should try…  it’s called In-N-Out. It’s right next to the Taco Bell.

Any attempts to get me to switch my allegiance are futile. Taco Bell has been my place since before I can remember. The Taco Bell across the street from my high school was always where my friends and I would go for drinks (RIP Fruitista Freeze) before hours of theatre rehearsal, and where my dad and I would go to pick up Crunchy Taco Supremes and Cheesy Gordita Crunches for dinner. The Taco Bell headquarters are just down the 405, meaning that Taco Bell is “based out of Irvine.” Hell, the first two guys I dated both worked drive-thru at our local Taco Bell! The place is a part of me whether I like it or not.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at: no, Taco Bell is not gourmet cuisine or fine dining. It’s probably not where you should take someone on a first date, or even somewhere you would dine without some liquid courage in your system. But it’s a brand on the come-up, a place that I’ve held near and dear in my heart for so long finally being respected and given the credit it’s deserved all along. Plus, their Starburst Freezes are bomb.