Crunch time: Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu

You probably haven’t noticed, but America’s fast food giants are in the midst of an all out breakfast war. This might conjure up images out of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” but it’s serious business. For years, fast food chains like Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box and others have thrown the sausage and egg gauntlet. Now, Taco Bell is the latest to join the fray in this war of nutrition, and it may be as much of a game changer as their PR firm wants you to believe.

You see, serving you breakfast cheaply and conveniently is a high-stakes battle that basically pits all the aforementioned chains against the long-unchallenged ruler of the domain: McDonald’s. The Golden Arches have dominated the breakfast market for as long as anyone can remember. According to an article in Slate, breakfast sales alone comprised $10 billion of total sales for McDonald’s in 2012. For comparison, Taco Bell reported $7.6 billion in revenue that year, and that includes all-day sales. Unsurprisingly, McDonald’s’ almost total dominance over the breakfast market made competitors jealous. Breakfast sales are steadily rising, perhaps because of health concerns. The fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been drilled into our heads since birth, it seems.

Visitors to any of these chains will not find anything on the menu that’s South Beach friendly or low on the glycemic index, but Taco Bell seems poised to capture a good chunk of the market with their unique, almost memebaiting breakfast menu. This comes as no surprise, since the company has long branded itself as the “cool” fast food joint, with a trendy social media presence and obvious focus on young adults in their advertisements. Say the words “waffle taco” to anyone who is not yet privy to the new menu, and you are sure to get their attention. They certainly got mine when they announced the new menu about a month ago. After getting over the initial “is this really happening” feeling, I began to weigh the visible merits of each menu item with my friends. The waffle taco looks like a carcinogen sandwich, and I’ve heard it tastes pretty similar. Ditto on the breakfast burrito (I will only eat burritos that are made in front of me now). While the A.M. Grilled Taco looks like the safest choice, it’s the A.M. Crunchwrap that appears the most alluring. And I don’t think I will have lived until trying those Cinnabon bites. I pledge to make the pilgrimage as soon as possible.

About a week ago I heard from my friend, who sampled at least three things on the breakfast menu, suffering disastrous gastrointestinal consequences. So now I had to go. My friend Tyler and I set a time and day. I came prepared with a mostly empty stomach at 10 a.m. to the Wrigleyville location. It happened to be the Cubs’ home opener, so after swimming upstream through a sea of drunk and old, we made it. I approach the counter. One steak Crunchwrap please, and two of the Cinnabon things. I receive my food and begin.

First things first, objects in the menu pictures are smaller than they appear. The Crunchwrap looks like this big imposing mothership of tortilla and egg, when really it was probably smaller than my hand. It tasted pretty good though, especially when doused with some Fire Sauce. Tyler and I sampled one Cinnabon Delight each, and had similar reactions (imagine the sound you would make upon getting shot, followed by the sound you might make upon realizing you may have entered a new chapter in life). They are amazing yet dangerous little morsels, and they provide the kind of enjoyment you feel bad about afterward. Tyler tried the grilled taco and had no complaints. Surprisingly, the aftermath of the meal included only slight feelings of regret. Go out and try Taco Bell breakfast sometime. Just order responsibly.