Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they put frosé and margaritas on the menu. Oh, and draft beer, too.
I’ll now need to defend myself less when I argue that Taco Bell is the best fast-food restaurant—at least the Raleigh location that opened earlier this week.
Located in a convenient section of Hillsborough Street near N.C. State—best believe they know the target demo—Taco Bell Cantina is the first Taco Bell of its kind in North Carolina. You’ve got outdoor tables, indoor booths, and bar stools. There are flatscreen TVs on which to catch the game, or you can admire the gorgeous wall mural done by local artist Clark Hipolito, who has a client list ranging from One Tree Hill to Bonnaroo. It’s all very chic and clean and colorful; there is no drive-thru.
Alcohol isn’t the only thing that sets location apart from the other Taco Bells. There’s also an extended menu with a “shareables” section and “small plates,” the idea being that you and your friends can hang out, gather ’round, drink a beer, eat some apps, and watch a State football game. That doesn’t mean it’s fancy, not by any stretch: I chose the Cheesy Jalapeño Dippers. Basically, two flour tortillas filled with a mountain of cheese and pickled jalapeños, wrapped like a burrito, and served warm with a side of sour cream.
And you guys heard they brought back the Nacho Fries, right? I couldn’t resist. I went with the Nacho Fry Box for an entrée with a side of 3 Layer Nachos. The box included fries with a side of nacho cheese for dipping, a burrito, and a Doritos Locos nacho cheese hard taco. (Being a vegetarian, I subbed potatoes and black beans for beef.) For dessert, I went with the Cinnabon Delights—essentially, donut holes filled with icing. They were cold by the time I finally got to them, but that didn’t make them any less delicious. No matter how full you are, you can always stuff a dozen or so down your gullet.
But enough about that. Let’s talk booze. I ordered a margarita-flavored Freeze, a slushee-esque concoction that comes with one measly ounce of your choice of liquor. (Tequila, duh.) It just, well, didn’t work. It melted too fast and tasted like a thick, sugary syrup after five minutes. Your money will be better spent on beer, of which the Taco Bell Cantina has a surprisingly decent selection for being, well, a Taco Bell Cantina. Four of the six beers on offer are from North Carolina (though none are from the Triangle, weirdly).
So here’s the deal: My best advice is not to go to the Taco Bell Cantina expecting gourmet food just because it sells alcohol now. It’s still the same fast-food restaurant. My order came out quickly, correct, and hot. The service was good. I can’t ask for much more. For an appetizer, large entrée, dessert, and that terrible Freeze thing, I paid less than $20.
Beer. Cheap food. Sports on the TV. College students. This place is going to make a fortune.