He Said: Our ongoing adventure of visiting every eating establishment in Conway has often led us to strange and wonderful venues. This week it led to Taco Bell on Prince street, which is neither strange (there are Taco Bells all over the world) nor particularly wonderful (no shame there—it’s a basic Mexican fast food place, and isn’t trying to be anything different).
This time on our weekly review meal we ended up with two guest diners: my daughter Jenny, otherwise known as Ruud2, and my wife’s mother, who is 91 and visiting from South Dakota, who will, perhaps become known here as "My Mom."
She Said: Yes, I was ready to stress eat due to an overly long session on the phone with my WiFi router support line that hadn’t solved the problem. Taco Bell seemed like a good place to do that, and with Ruud2’s tight lunch hour, fast food was the way to go.
Ruud2: My love affair with Taco Bell began somewhere in the 9th grade, so anytime anybody even hints they are going there I will tag along to make sure that Taco Bell is still aware that while there may be Buenos or even Tacos for Life occasionally passing down my gullet, TB will always hold a special place in my sodium-drenched heart.
He Said: This place looks like it has been remodeled recently. The walls were smartly decorated and the tables and seats seemed quite new, though the seats have no padding, which makes it a little uncomfortable for the likes of old folks like me.
She Said: Yes, it was clean and modern, but not particularly comfortable. There weren’t a lot of diners when we were there around 1:30 p.m. on a weekday, so maybe not many people eat in. It certainly isn’t as hospitable as the renovated McDonald’s restaurants and some other fast-food places that seek, along with Starbucks, to a be "third place" between home and work in which patrons are encouraged to spend time. By the time we were finished eating, we were all ready to go. My mother said she was quite comfortable during the meal.
Ruud2: I’m more of a drive through gal, since I’m always in a rush. I thought the remodel was clean, modern and welcoming, but Taco Bell is generally just not a place I think to sit down and eat in. It’s more satisfying car food. Still I thought the atmosphere was pleasant.
He Said: So they have a great variety of fountain drinks here, and you get a large as a part of your "combo" meal. So I took a shot and had a Mountain Dew Kickstart Orange soda. It tasted like an Orange Crush or a Fanta, but with its being a Mountain Dew with the surname Kickstart I assumed it probably had a significant amount of caffeine to go with the orange flavor. According to the Mountain Dew home page, there are 68 milligrams of caffeine in a can of Kickstart soda, which is a pretty good dose, though it’s still not as high as a coffee from Starbucks. I liked the many choices they had here.
She Said: I don’t drink much soda, so I went right for the unsweetened iced tea dispenser, and I liked it so much, I had a refill before I left. My mother had water. She said it was delicious.
Ruud 2: If Taco Bell served Margaritas, all would be right with the world.
She Said: Truth.
He Said: I’m not particularly familiar with the Taco Bell menu, so I didn’t know exactly what I wanted when I got there and didn’t get a great deal of time to study the menu, since Jones likes to rush me along as if the people behind me in line might like to place an order while they’re young. Sheesh. So I just went with the Number 8, which is three crunchy tacos. I had intended to order chicken tacos because of my well-documented low-fat necessities, but forgot to mention that (did I mention rushed?) and so ended up with the ground beef. This was not disastrous, since according to Taco Bell’s online nutrition site, each crunchy taco is 170 calories and contains 9 grams of fat; therefore, I consumed a grand total of 510 calories (not too bad) and 27 grams of fat, which is about half my day’s allowance.
As for the tacos, well, they were basic tacos and tasted like very basic tacos. The seasoned ground beef tasted pretty good to me for a change, but these were average tacos, each containing lettuce and shredded cheddar. Nothing fancy like tomatoes or green peppers. Just the mild salsa I squeezed into them from little plastic tubes. But I have a question: Why is this meal called a "combo"? Doesn’t that stand for a "combination"? Isn’t a combination by definition a collection of different things? This was a collection of three tacos. I would expect a "combo meal" at a Mexican restaurant to include, say, refried beans and/or Mexican rice or even potatoes of some sort. Had I wanted rice or beans, I guess I would have had to order them as additions, but I didn’t see any place on the menu where I could do that. But then, I was rushed a bit when looking at said menu.
She Said: Sorry, Ruud. I didn’t mean to rush you! Next time tell me, "Easy there, killer!" Anyway, yes, you are right about the weird combo language on the menu. I got the three-taco "combo" as well, which comprised three soft-shell chicken (I remembered to order chicken) taco supremes. These are tacos with tomatoes and sour cream. I knew about the "supreme" option from ages ago when I would occasionally drive through a Taco Bell when I was in need of speedy sustenance and was tired of the usual suspects. I like Taco Bell tacos, but they are good at what they are good for, taco-wise, which is a smallish, basic taco, delivered quickly, usually through a window so you can eat it on the run. My tacos tasted just fine, and I actually lost weight after I ate there, so that was a May miracle!
My mother had the regular soft tacos, and she thought they were quite tasty and filling.
Ruud 2: I ate a Doritos Fiery Locos Taco and I was not disappointed. A taco shell made out of a Dorito? What magical, delicious, genius Food Chemist sorcery is this? I shall return to eat seven more.
He Said: Well, service is about what you might expect at a fast -food place. The person taking our order was friendly enough and patient in taking all four of our orders and having to wait extraordinarily long for mine. We got the food pretty quickly—hence the term "fast food"—after we sat down. And we all got what we ordered without any mix-ups. Which is all pretty much what you would want and expect from a Taco Bell
She Said: I can’t really add to He Said’s comments. Everything went well, quickly and was as tasty as I expected.
Ruud 2: I think the service at this Taco Bell is above average. The drive through specifically is always very friendly, fast and accurate. I found the inside service to be that way as well. They must be so happy all the time because they are surrounded by Tacos.
What We Got and What We Paid: One order of three chicken taco supremes, one order of three soft taco supremes, one fiery DLT and one chalupa beef supreme, one combo with three crunchy tacos and a large drink, two small drinks, and one water, all for $28.56 (which included a $2.70 senior discount).
He Said: Taco Bell offers you basic, typical Mexican fast food. It’s relatively healthy—you’re not getting a bunch of fried stuff here that’s loaded with fat. Then again, it’s nothing to get really excited about, but fine for a quick bite when you need something fast. And it’s certainly inexpensive—feeding four people for just over $28 is something you can’t do many places.
She Said: I’ll keep this on my emergency food list because I like the soft-shell tacos here and they aren’t Enemy No. 1 of my scale.
Ruud2: Taco Bell will always be my go-to stress-eating place!
My Mom: If I’m going to have a taco, I would go there! But I don’t drive, so someone will have to take me.
So…He Said and She Said: Go here for reliable Mexican-ish fast food fast, but you might want to get it to go.
Editor's Note: Eat It, Conway is produced by local author Jay Ruud and his wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones). The couple has begun an attempt to eat at and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. The Log Cabin Democrat and thecabin.net are publishing Eat It, Conway with permission from the authors. Visit them online at jayruud.com and on Facebook at Eat It, Conway. In addition to restaurant reviews, Ruud authors movie reviews on the site.