Taco Bell is open! In Beijing! Can you believe it!? In Beijing! Now I can stock up on hot sauce packets! And easily replenish my Fort Knox of Sauce! Wait, what’s that!? They don’t have sauce packets!? Are you &$%&$% kidding me!? I waited a dozen-plus years for this Tex-Mex / Middle Kingdom moment and there are no sauce packets!? I’m outta here.
Well, it didn’t quite come to that. But really. No hot sauce packets.
Anyway, before I get to my first taste of Taco Bell in Beijing, I’m already tired of people going on friends’ joyful social media posts–posts oozing excitement a favorite fast food chain is finally here–just to trash the food.
These killjoys should shut their big fat keg holes.
As noted, they are sucking joy from something people love, something people know is not haute cuisine but makes them happy, like Beibingyang (just fizzy orange soda water) or hot dogs (just, say some, lips and assholes assembled in tubular form) and plenty of other comfort foods and drinks.
(My own reasons are partly sentimental, dating to university days when my budget was tight and tacos cheap, when a seven-layer burrito was an easy and tasty way of satiating beer-driven hunger. Sadly, word is the seven-layer was discontinued this month.)
Let people have a happy moment in a shitty year.
That especially goes for the joy killers who are always posting about cutting-edge cuisine. “Hey, look everybody, I’m eating foie gras turdlets on asbestos-flaked wagyu with a wanker reduction.”
The funny thing is some of the most excited responses to my WeChat posts about Taco Bell came from the chefs those type of people respect.
(Fun fact: about a dozen years ago, I polled some top Beijing chefs re their favorite snacks and the winner was KFC’s spicy chicken burger.)
Finally, just because people go to Taco Bell doesn’t mean they can’t like your favorite Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex or Mexican place, too. Maybe rethink pushing the send key on sentiments like, “It’s outrageous! How can people go to Taco Bell when we have places like El Barrio, Taco Bar or Pebbles!? What a year. First Kobe, then the Australian fires, then COVID-19, then [disaster] and now Taco Bell in Beijing.”
Maybe Taco Bell will be some people’s first taste of “Mexican food” and inspire them to explore your favorite “authentic” places. Maybe it’ll happen so much that you won’t be able to get a seat any more.
Anyway, I went to the media launch for Taco Bell, the day before the official opening, and about the only thing I didn’t have was tacos.
My memory is hazy as I didn’t sleep the night before, had a battery meltdown on the way to the event, and was processing the “no sauce packets” revelation during it. The hamster in the treadmill of my mind was doing 20 in a 60 mph zone.
OK, foods I remember. The limited-time offer “Mexican pizzas”, with hard or soft bases. These were gooey, savory and loaded. No rocket science here, just fat and carbs and salt with tangy and spicy flavors. If you have to pick one, go for the hard crust with re-fried beans et al (not shown), though the sauce is a bit sweet.
The quesadilla was a sloppy mess, with fillings that kept trying to make a run for the border — obligatory old-school Taco Bell slogan reference — but the item that best defined the flavors of back home. Because there were plenty of — too many? — local twists.
Spicy chicken wings with a Sichuan peppercorn edge seemed a bit out of place though they were tender and meaty for their size. A better fit was the sesame chicken burrito. Other localized items include rice bowls and a range of teas, We also faced mounds of fries and tortilla chips with seasoning — paprika? plus cayenne pepper? pus lots of other stuff? — that were so-so on their own but worked better with the boozy drinks.
And Taco Bell has boozy drinks. Very lightly boozy as far as the frozen mojito goes. Bring a hip flask. Or stick to Asahi draft (28 kuai) or perhaps this Zeffer cider concoction.
So, first impressions: glad Taco Bell is finally here, wish they featured more original and fewer localized items (now that the seven-layer burrito is done Stateside, can it count as localized here? ) and hope they boost the booze in those drinks.
I’ll make another run for the border (boom!) soon, with a full night’s sleep plus working phone battery, and eat my way through more of the menu.
Taco Bell is just down from the Four Seasons–it’s hotel, then Starbucks, then Taco Bell–and offers store, patio and mall seating. Open daily 10 AM to 10 PM.
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