Somewhere in a California boardroom, you can almost hear a Taco Bell executive desperately whispering, “How do I reach these kids?"
Not that the brand of “fourth meal” and “live mas” has a problem courting Millennials. But we’re a fickle bunch if there was one, and you can only make so many things out of Doritos. So, with an eye on the future—er, on prevailing market trends—they’ve introduced the Taco Bell Cantina to downtowns across the country.
Cincinnati’s Cantina opened on 6th Street last month, and at this point, it’s all I’ve eaten in 2018.
What’s different about the Cantina? First thing you’ll notice is the decor, which is bright, colorful, and hip. The kitchen is open to the dining area, so you can see what your Crunchwrap looks like as it’s being assembled. Meanwhile, the wall-mounted TVs and outlets at the bar imply you’re meant to linger in the space rather than dash out of it.
The Cantina menu is in a word, comprehensive. The familiar items are all here, including tacos, gorditas, Crunchwraps, nachos, salads, and the like. But the Cantina adds shareable tapas-style food as well: naked chicken nachos, rolled chicken tacos, mini quesadilla nachos, cheesy bacon jalapeño dippers, seven-layer dip, homestyle nachos, and chili cheese smothered potatoes.
One might ask, “But is the food at Taco Bell actually good?” And I would respond with silence, for the question itself is absurd.
Yes, the Cantina has booze. There’s draught beer in the form of Rhinegeist Truth and two national brands that aren’t worth mentioning. You can also get wine, sangria, or a spiked Freeze in one of three flavors: Cantina Margarita, Mountain Dew Baja Blast, or Poppin’ Candy.
The Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze spiked with tequila is a personal favorite. Starbright fruity notes give way to a sharp, tangy finish that pairs well with, uh, everything.
SO, IS IT AMAZE?
Not according to Yelp, where some live mas casual actually despairs the lack of a drive-thru. But I give it five stars anyway, because the location is ideal, the alcoholic beverages are sufficiently tantalizing, and the food actually seems fresher than that from other Taco Bells around town.
No, it isn’t local. No, it isn’t flush with authenticity or character, and calling it “hip” is a Faustian bargain in itself. But, I mean, c’mon it’s Taco Bell. Just stop thinking and enjoy your chalupa.
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The Taco Bell Cantina is located at 580 Walnut Street (45202). For menu information, visit TacoBell.com.