Mexican “Street Tacos” Appear at Taco Bell

Taco Bell Cantina Tacos

Image courtesy Taco Bell Corp.

Cantina Tacos debut at Taco Bell locations today, marking the chain’s first true attempt to recreate authentic Mexican cuisine.

The new entrée combines either grilled chicken, carne asada steak, or carnitas (shredded pork) with chopped onions and cilantro inside two corn tortillas.  Each taco comes wrapped in foil alongside a sliced lime wedge.

In a news release announcing the new offering, Taco Bell Corporation Chief Marketing Officer David Ovens describes Cantina Tacos as “based upon authentic-style Mexican street tacos.”  The restaurant appears to have done a good job at recreating that dish, which writer Karen Hursh Graber calls “the heart and soul of [Mexico’s] diverse cuisine.”  In her article for MexConnect entitled, “Wrap It Up: A Guide to Mexican Street Tacos,” Graber notes how onion and cilantro find themselves added to street tacos “automatically,” and how lime wedges are “ubiquitous” at the numerous taco stands and carts that serve street tacos across the country.  In addition, an entry on the blog Indy Grub Review emphasizes that Cantina Tacos faithfully approximate the look of their Mexican inspiration.

Cantina Tacos fall short of the Mexican street taco ideal, however, with regard to other details.  Graber’s article also states that taco stands south of the border “will usually have an array of salsas [including] a cooked red salsa made with dried chiles, a tomatillo-based green salsa, and a guacamole-type salsa,” and that one can expect to find other garnishes, including green onions, radishes, and sliced cucumber.  Elsewhere, a review on food blog Brand Eating characterizes the texture of the steak Cantina Taco as indicative that the meat has been “braised rather than grilled” and that the corn tortillas likewise “don’t appear to be grilled.”

Though it’s the nations biggest Mexican-style quick service restaurant, Taco Bell follows a string of other fast food and fast casual restaurants that have already introduced similar, street taco-inspired dishes.  Del Taco, North America’s second largest Mexican restaurant chain, added Tacos Del Carbon to its menu in 2003.  Three years later, fellow competitor El Pollo Loco introduced Tacos al Carbon as part of the Loco Value Menu.  In his article for Nation’s Restaurant News, Bret Thorn mentions other, more recent forays into Mexican street food found in Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas.

Cantina Tacos appear today at Taco Bell for $1.49 each.  They can also be purchased as a pair for $2.79 and as part of the Cantina Tacos Combo — two tacos and a soft drink — for $4.99.

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