The Guilty Pleasure: Smothered Burrito Where To Get It: Taco Bell, locations nationwide Price: $2.99 (or $3.99 with steak or chicken) What It Really Costs: Dairy-induced heartburn.
Of all the fast food items I've seen, few have had the rabid following of Taco Bell's cult classic Enchirito. I never understood the fuss over it. We have real enchiladas around here, why would I ever want a simulacrum?
I might not have been an Enchirito fan, but its lovers were legion. Taco Bell officially discontinued the Enchirito in 1993 (Twenty years ago! God, I feel old!). However, since all the ingredients were part of Taco Bell's regular stock, many locations kept right on making them as though nothing ever happened. Then, in late 1999, the Enchirito officially went back on the menu.
The Enchirito has once again disappeared from the Taco Bell menu. This time, it hasn't been as much discontinued as upgraded. It also has a new name, the Smothered Burrito.
To spruce up the old Enchirito, they added rice and creamy chipotle sauce to the burrito, and gave the finished product a squirt of sour cream in addition to the cheese on top. These upgrades bumped up the price to $2.99 for the ground beef model, or $3.99 for steak or shredded chicken.
The rice is an obvious play to push the Smothered Burrito into Mission-style burrito territory; you already have an opinion about rice in burritos, and the Smothered Burrito won't do anything to change it one way or the other. Personally, I'll willingly tolerate it (even ask for it at Chipotle), but I'm more partial to the all-killer-no-filler style of good old-school Sonoran burros.
The creamy chipotle sauce is neither here nor there; I had no idea it was in there until I looked at Taco Bell's website. Sour cream helps quench America's undying lust for covering everything in dairy products, but it's largely decorative thanks to the blanket of melted cheese already on top.
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I was pleasantly surprised by Taco Bell's red sauce (yes, my first encounter with it; go figure). You aren't going to confuse it with the red sauce from your favorite mom-and-pop Sonoran joint that's been there for decades, but it showed a fair amount of chile depth for something aimed at Midwesterners' taste buds.
How is Taco Bell's new creation overall? To be honest, it's not half-bad. Goodness knows I've had much worse similar dishes that cost three times as much. Let's be honest here, for a place that serves its sour cream out of a caulking gun, faint praise is about all they're going to get.
It's pretty clear the Phoenix market isn't the target for the Smothered Burrito. After all, you can get a darn good enchilada-style burrito at countless quick-service Mexican joints all over the city. But, if you find yourself with someone craving a Doritos Locos Taco or other Manufactured Mex, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the Smothered Burrito.