Last month, Taco Bell began serving First Meal (breakfast) at nearly 800 locations, mainly in the western U.S. It’s a logical pairing, what with breakfast burritos being awesome and all. They plan to release First Meal nationwide by 2014. They’re a bit late to the table, with McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Subway and even Starbucks and Wendy’s already offering breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day after all.
Breakfast has basically accounted for all of the growth in the fast food market over the past few years. McDonald’s McCafe line, Subway breakfast sandwiches, and Carl’s Jr/Hardee’s “from scratch” biscuits are some of the recent additions. One of the main reasons for the growth is that it’s cheaper to eat out for breakfast. A breakfast combo generally costs about $2 less than a lunch/dinner one. Also breakfast is more delicious.
I’m not sure why they decided to release First Meal in the west first. I guess Taco Bell agrees that the West Coast is the best coast. The states that got dibs on breakfast (at select locations) are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
Unfortunately, none of the Taco Bells in my city got First Meal, so I had to travel across the mighty Columbia River to Portland, Oregon to get mine. Of course, that’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds if you have a car. Good thing this isn’t the 1800′s, ’cause it probably would’ve taken an entire day to get there. Not that I would’ve been busy or anything, since there would be nothing fun to occupy my time like the internet or TV or something.
Side note: I live in the most unfortunately named place ever, Vancouver, Washington. This shirt explains it:
*Steers ship back in the right direction*
Taco Bell First Meal is served from 8 or 9 to 11 AM, depending on the location. There’s no need to open earlier, they say, because their target demographic is 18-28 year olds (read: stoners, losers) who don’t wake up early. If that’s the case they should have breakfast until the early afternoon. What kind of stoner is up by 11 AM? I really think they should have breakfast all day at every restaurant. Who are you to tell me what time I can eat certain foods?! I want brinner!
The menu includes a sausage wrap; bacon, sausage or steak burritos; hash browns; Cinnabon Delights (I’ll explain later); Tropicana orange juice and Seattle’s Best coffee. Items range in price from $.99 to $2.79. There are also three combos, all for $3.99. And over two visits, I tried all of it. Well, almost all of it. Let’s get to it.
Johnsonville Sausage and Egg Wrap ($1.79; $3.99 with hash brown and drink)
I don’t know why, but I was expecting this to be the size of the Crunch Wrap. It’s more like Taco Bell’s version of a breakfast sandwich, akin to the McMuffin or Croissan’wich. It’s a sausage patty (presumably Johnsonville brand), eggs, and cheese in a tortilla, folded in the style of a crunch wrap. The cheese was not melted in mine. Disappointing, but not a deal-breaker.
Overall I quite liked this wrap thing. The sausage actually tasted like pork, surprisingly. Other fast food sausage patties do not, which is somewhat disconcerting considering sausage is a pork product. I was afraid the eggs would have a weird taste or texture, but they’re pretty mild. Although they don’t add much flavor, they are absolutely necessary in all of these items because they’re kind of fluffy and balance out the heavy sausage/bacon/steak. Also very portable, good for chowing in the car. 8/10
Steak and Egg Burrito ($1.99; $3.99 with hash brown and drink)
A staple of every fast food breakfast menu. Steak, eggs, cheese and creamy jalapeno sauce. I’m not normally a fan of steak for breakfast but this thing was, dare I say, the bomb. The steak pieces were not particularly juicy but still had a lot of flavor. The key to this burrito’s greatness is the jalapeno sauce. I can’t explain why, but it just worked. For $1.99 this is an amazing value. 9/10
Sausage/Bacon and Egg Burrito ($.99; $3.99 for two with hash brown and drink)
This one’s pretty simple: bits of sausage or bacon with egg and cheese. The sausage bits were okay, not a lot of flavor though. The cheese actually contributed more flavor than the sausage. Without the cheese it would have been totally bland.
As for the bacon bits, they were…strange. Kind of chewy, and tasted something like bacon flavored ham, if that makes any sense. Definitely more like ham texture-wise. These weren’t all that special, but you could do worse for a buck. Sausage: 6/10; Bacon 5/10
Hash Browns ($.99)
These hash browns are a clear attempt to duplicate McDonald’s perfect fried potato patty. Taco Bell’s version looks almost exactly the same, and is similar in taste as well. They’re much more greasy, though. We saved a couple and put them directly on the toaster oven rack, and a drop of grease fell to the bottom, creating a flame for a split-second. It was cool. One problem I have with these hash browns is that they’re not crispy enough. This is probably due to the fact that they place them in a sleeve similar to McDonald’s, except Taco Bell’s is longer so they fold it over. This prevents the warm hash brown from getting any air, making it soggy. A greasy delight. 8/10
My one complaint is that they made me wait in the parking lot because they ran out of hash browns. I know that makes me sound impatient, but why can’t you make more BEFORE you run out? Did you not expect anyone to order a friggin’ hash brown?
Cinnabon Delights ($1.49)
This was the item I really wanted to try. They’re fried balls of dough, filled with cream cheese icing and dusted with cinnamon sugar. These sounded amazing, and they delivered. I don’t feel the need to describe the flavor because what you’re imagining is probably spot-on. They may be a little overpriced at 4 for $1.49 (I’m thinking dollar menu), but they’re so delicious that it doesn’t matter. 9/10
I have a complaint about these as well. When I tried to get them this week they were sold out, most likely due to the massive amounts of awesome. How could Taco Bell not foresee the fact that everyone would love these? They’re fried balls of dough with icing and cinnamon for Christ’s sake. I asked the drive thru jockey if they were really popular or if they just didn’t get very many. She told me that everyone was out of them, because the supply did not meet the demand. <rage>OH REALLY? I didn’t come here for a fucking microeconomics lesson, but thank you.< /rage>
There’s one burrito I was not able to obtain, the Grande Skillet burrito ($2.79), which has sausage bits, eggs, cheese, tomatoes and onions. I ordered it on my second visit but was given one with just sausage, egg, and cheese instead; I could’ve gotten that for $.99. Taco Bell owes me $1.80.
I elected not to try the orange juice or coffee. For the orange juice, it’s just a small bottle of Tropicana, so I figure there’s not much new to say there. As far as the Seattle’s Best coffee drinks, my opinion would be irrelevant because I never drink coffee. The options include plain coffee, and vanilla or mocha iced coffee.
Overall, I think Taco Bell did well with First Meal. It’s good for a hangover (read: greasy), and pretty cheap. It’s definitely on the unhealthy side, so it fits right in with the rest of the menu. If you eat this on your way to work, you may feel like turning around and taking a nap, but I’m judging based on flavor, not aftermath. On the plus side, if you do elect to go to work after all, you’ll have an extra long bathroom break to check Facebook and play Angry Birds and Words With Friends in private.