Apr 6, 2015

Taco Bells of Portland: #1 (SE 50th & Powell)

Yesterday while google mapping the drive time between my apartment and my local Taco Bell, I noticed something strange: Some Taco Bells had 3-star ratings while others had only 2.5. Curious as to what might account for such a discrepancy, I decided to investigate.

This post marks the first in a new series on ambericaonline: Taco Bells of Portland, in which I work my way through all the Taco Bells in the city of Portland in a quest to determine the warm, beany truth: Are some Taco Bells better than others?

Tune in for reviews of my Taco Bell experiences every... week? No that's gross. Just every time I feel like eating Taco Bell. It's more often than you think.

First, the rules

I will order the same meal* at each Taco Bell and comment on the following:
  • Service - How friendly, accurate, and prompt are the servers. Note that I will only be commenting on drive-thru service as there's no way I'm getting out of my car to order Taco Bell. Drive-thru line length will not be taken into consideration as that's not a controllable variable.
  • Taste - The primary test point here is "Does it taste as expected?" I'm not looking to be blown away -- I know what I'm eating. But does it contain the expected ingredients heated to the desired temperature? If so, we have a successful meal!
*This part will be easy as I've been eating the same meal at Taco Bell for over a decade now. It used to be combo #2** -- Grilled Stuft Burrito with beef, side of chips & cheese, and a medium soda -- but in 2012 they revamped their menu and turned the GSB into a GSB XXL (now featuring guacamole and "avocado ranch"?? no.) and replacing the chips & cheese with a taco. Big mistake as far as I'm concerned, but I don't make the decisions at Taco Bell, unfortunately. So now I have to order the Grilled Stuft Burrito with beef, NO guacamole or avocado ranch, with a side of chips & cheese and a small soda because medium is just excessive. Normally I'll get a Pepsi but sometimes I might be feeling a little frisky and order a Dr. Pepper. The soda will not be factored into my review.

**heh heh


Today's Taco Bell: SE 50th & Powell

This is my "home" Taco Bell. It's technically not the closest one, but it's the most convenient and holds a special place in my heart as the first Taco Bell I ever visited in Portland. I've probably been to this one the most times out of all the PTBs (Portland Taco Bells).

I meant to take a photo of myself in the drive-thru, but there was no one else in line (6pm on a Monday), and I'm not exaggerating when I say I was in and out of there in less than a minute. HOW DO THEY MAKE IT SO FAST?! I'll tell you how: All their ingredients are in caulk guns. They literally shoot the contents of your burrito into a tortilla, fold it up, and throw it in a bag that someone else has already added the chips & cheese to and voila: dinner.

Anyway I'll get a photo at the next one.

Service-wise, this Taco Bell can't be beat. They ask how you're doing, and if you respond "Good, thanks! How are you?" they always thank you for asking. Of course I asked! Just because you're the server and I the servee doesn't mean your well-being doesn't matter to me. It does. I care. And I'll have the Grilled Stuft Burrito with NO avocado ranch.

Driving home with a bag full of Taco Bell is always a fun experience for me. I WANT to wait til I get home to eat it, but I just don't think it's possible. As soon as I hit a red light that cheese cup's open. This trip was particularly exciting as I got stuck behind a train! I was able to unwrap my burrito and take those first few ultra-salty bites in total peace in the car (where I believe Taco Bell tastes best).

I have to admit I didn't take completely thorough mental notes of those first few bites because there was a very drunk man who, once he saw the train coming, RAN to the edge of the tracks and I think we all worried for a minute there that he was going to do something dramatic and final, but instead he just swayed back and forth looking at all the train cars. I did get a picture of him:

Anyway, by the time I got home I was about 1/4 of the way done and so far so good. One of the challenges with burritos -- and this is anywhere, not just Taco Bell -- is ingredient uniformity. I understand it, I experience it myself making tortilla-wrapped items! So I don't judge too harshly. With Taco Bell, it's kind of expected that I'll have to turn my burrito upside-down about halfway through and start eating from the other end in order to get the beans/rice/meat/whatever's missing from the first half. No points off for that.

This burrito: alright! There was one cilantro twig in there that was a bit of a shock, but I'll always welcome more greens in my Taco Bell. Gotta eat healthy, right? I finished most of my burrito.

The chips were fresh and plentiful, and the cheese warm and thick. One time (not in Portland) I got served a half-cup of watered-down nacho cheese and that was not acceptable. 1 star for that Taco Bell. I don't care where you have to cut costs, it better not be in my cheese. Like I wouldn't notice!

A few swigs of some ice-cold Dr. Pepper (feelin' frisky!) and I'd finished my meal.


Portland's rating: 2.3 stars (I'll always link to the reviews here so you can read them yourself -- scroll down to view them all. They're a hoot.)

ambericaonline rating: 5 stars. Will definitely go again.

Correction: This post originally incorrectly identified the location of this Taco Bell at SE 52nd & Powell. Listen, I'm a burrito person, not a maps person alright?

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