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Expect the Unexpected: Taco Bell Cantina Bowl

Nov01

by

This post is sponsored by Taco Bell. Inviting you to try the bold new Cantina Bowl.

I have possibly in the past been labeled something of a food snob. And I will own that, to a degree. I LOVE food, but I hate crappy tasting food. I hate boring food. I have an adventurous palate and love bold and complex flavors and lots of spice.

On the other hand, I will not ever pretend that I don’t occasionally just want some super-convenient, inexpensive comfort food. Fast food, even. Preferably via a drive-thru so I don’t have to unload my litter of children and stand in line and PUT DOWN THE KETCHUP PACKETS I MEAN IT.

My go-to convenient comfort food of choice is almost always burritos. I have never met a burrito that I would not happily and enthusiastically eat the bejesus out of.

And yet when Taco Bell started promoting the Cantina Bell menu — complete with a burrito AND (be still my calorie-watching heart) burrito bowl — I admit my little food snobby ways kept me kind of suspicious.

Even as I watched Lorena Garcia — the chef behind the Cantina Bell menu — wipe the floor with her competition on Top Chef Masters, I kept thinking: But. Taco Bell? Really? I haven’t eaten there since college, probably. Or at least since having children and I’m no longer regularly on the prowl for salty-cheesy-crunchy food that’s available after the bars close. I don’t even know what time that is, anymore. GO TO SLEEP, PEOPLE.

But when I was asked to write about the Cantina Bowl for AlphaMom — with the stipulation that hey, yeah, YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY GO EAT ONE — I figured it was a sign. A sign that someone wanted to pay me to go eat a burrito bowl and that I have the greatest job in the history of ever. (I am easily pleased in the job satisfaction area, yes.)

I’m not exaggerating when I say I haven’t eaten at Taco Bell in a long, long time. In fact, I couldn’t even remember if there was a location nearby and had to Google it. I found one (with excellent Yelp ratings!) and headed out for the Great Cantina Bowl experiment.

And you guys, from one fast-cazhj burrito aficionado to another, it’s really good. I feel guilty going on and on about what I expected from Taco Bell — perhaps a bowl of tasteless iceberg lettuce mixed with a mish-mash of bland-but-over-salted flavors — but it’s nothing like that. Lorena Garcia’s cilantro sauce is no joke, the guacamole is perfectly creamy, the roasted corn salsa and pico de gallo and romaine and black beans and rice and delicious chicken…well. FINE. I ate the bejesus out of that thing. And then realized that I probably should’ve taken a picture of it before reducing it to one lettuce remnant and a few specks of rice.

Welp. There’s an easy solution to THAT problem:

FIELD TRIP TIME.

Me, eating the Cantina Bowl in the Taco Bell parking lot, ALL BY MYSELF in an empty kid-free minivan, like I am the Queen of England or something. TREAT YO SELF!

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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25 Responses to “Expect the Unexpected: Taco Bell Cantina Bowl”

  1. Sara Nov 01 at 11:27 am Reply Reply

    woohoo! I really should try that…I’m obsessed with the commercial and the way Lorena Garcia makes every ingredient sound amazing..BEAUTIFUL MARINATED CHICKEN!

  2. Liz Nov 01 at 12:19 pm Reply Reply

    Wow. Kida disapointed in you A, way to completely sell out. I lve you but i don’t love this. At.all.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Nov 01 at 3:31 pm Reply Reply

      First let me share some facts:

      Amy has written on this website for over six years answering YOUR questions (maybe not you specifically, but you know what I mean). During that time she has written almost 1,000 blog posts of which about a handful have been “sponsored” by an advertiser.

      We turn down sponsored posts often because the products are not ones we use ourselves in our homes. In this specific case, before accepting this sponsored post, Amy went and tried the Cantina Bowl herself to make sure that it was a product with which she wanted to be associated. When she told me that she really enjoyed it, that gave me the confidence to go ahead. (Six years of working together means trust.) We really appreciate sponsors like Taco Bell, who are forward thinking and want to shift some of their ad dollars to honest online parenting websites from say stilted “reality TV” shows about “housewives.”

      Advertisers are what allow us to continue funding this website. And, sponsored posts are more and more of what makes up those ad dollars. And we want to do a good job for you and them and we know we can do it.

      For every single post you see written on this website, someone has gotten paid for writing it and it takes money to pay those writers. I have never taken a paycheck, I have only invested my own nest egg into this business (we were mostly ad-free for 2 years), a decision that sometimes I regret but mostly not. Because at the end of every month I get to send a check to mothers, all of whom are working from home, who are doing what they love. Every dollar earned by this business has been reinvested to hire more parents.

      So, honestly Liz, I am disappointed in you for trying to shame Amy publicly (you could have sent her a private email). I don’t know if you’re a long-time reader, but my hope is that those who are (like Hallie & Sara who leftcomments– thank you!) would trust that the decisions we make are made with lots of prior thought and for the greater good of this business.

      I don’t want to get into a discussion about this in this comment section. It’s just not appropriate. If any of you want, you can email me directly at Isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com

  3. Hallie Nov 01 at 1:38 pm Reply Reply

    Liz… you do realize that writing this column is a job, right?  She’s not doing it for funsies, she gets paid.  That hasn’t ever meant that she didn’t give her honest opinion before, and I doubt it means that she isn’t today.  If she liked it, she liked it.  It is possible that it’s really delicious.

    Something tells me if it sucked, she would have written something else, or not taken on the responsibility of the sponsored post.  But the woman is here to make a living, just like everybody else.

    • Sara M Nov 01 at 2:37 pm Reply Reply

      Where’s the like button for this comment! :)

    • Amber Nov 01 at 3:23 pm Reply Reply

      Exactly!!! This is her JOB, meaning sometimes she’ll get paid to review Taco Bell. I’m jealous (can I get paid to eat in Taco Bell’s parking lot… please) and also fairly confident that she wouldn’t have called it delicious if it tasted like crap.

  4. -k- Nov 01 at 2:56 pm Reply Reply

    Oh. In the Smackdown too? :\

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Nov 01 at 3:14 pm Reply Reply

      Unfortunately the way our feed is currently structured, the only way you would be able to see anything Amy currently writes is if it is tagged as “Advice Smackdown.” But with Feedburner going out of business we’ll be changing that. If you would like to discuss some more, please email me directly at isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

  5. e Nov 01 at 3:23 pm Reply Reply

    I have to admit that I tried the Cantina Bowl and it actually is pretty good. (And I too hadn’t eaten Taco Bell in 10+ years.)

    But……this post still makes me feel weird, Amy. Sorry.

  6. Jen Nov 01 at 5:56 pm Reply Reply

    I agree–I understand completely that web writing is usually for a free site that offers a lot of useful information, but when so much of that becomes light-hearted posts about brand loyalty and “reviews” sponsored by specific corporations, well, it makes me not want to read the site anymore, especially when the post has such an overt air/tone of sponsored writing.  I mean…it’s not a comprehensive, balanced post for an informed consumer, it’s a love letter to a taco bell “salad”.  I would also like to respectfully point out that offering criticism from a longtime reader like myself and perhaps like the other ladies here is not “shaming” the author; as a reader/”consumer” of this public medium, I’m pointing out helpful information for the creators and producers of the website. If this is a business, hopefully you value the feedback rather than “attack” right back.  

    From Isabel:
    [I will allow this comment to go, but after this one, all off-topic discussions from now on will be deleted.]

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Nov 01 at 6:33 pm Reply Reply

      First of all, calling Amy a sell-out is shaming, it’s not offering criticism, nor was it helpful.

      Yeah, the post is pretty upfront that it’s sponsored. Amy’s opinion was completely honest and if it felt like a love letter (your words), then it’s how Amy felt. Taco Bell did not tell us what to write whatsoever (please give us more credit than that). She’s pretty passionate about food and has been honest, helpful and thoughtful on readers’ behalves for six years so I think y’all can trust her, because I sure do.

      If you didn’t feel it to be comprehensive or balanced, now that is respectfully pointing out something that is of value to us and we’ll keep it in mind. But what Liz said… nope, not helpful at all.

      We try very hard to balance how many “sponsored posts” go up and the nature of those posts, having turned away campaigns because it was too many.

      And, would love to keep you on as a reader, but if you feel as if it’s too much, please drop me a line at isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

    • BBB Nov 05 at 7:52 pm Reply Reply

      I am not a regular reader. I actually have never been on this site. I had seen the commercials for the Cantina Bowl and wanted to read up on reviews. I found this blog and when I read the review I found it very helpful–product reviews re awesome. I did buy a Cantina Bowl and it was delicious, so I don’t really think this blog post was deceitful. Rather, it was a product I was curious about, she tried it (sponsored or not) and gave it an honest review (including her low expectations given the type of food the establishment usually caters to). If you are a regular reader and feel that this is a sellout post or a post about a product you’re not interested in don’t read the post. People can’t write ad nauseum for free at your fancy. I am a regular reader of other blogs and I’m actually happy for them when they get paid to write. I figure, good for them, they spend all their time writing interesting things for me to read and now someone is paying them, yay!

  7. Jackie Nov 01 at 6:35 pm Reply Reply

    Sorry but the Cantina bowl was awful in my opinion.  I tried it when I was starving (eating dinner at 10 pm) and I couldn’t even finish it.  It just had a weird taste. I would skip it or drive farther to Chipotle or Qdoba any day.

  8. Olivia Nov 01 at 6:46 pm Reply Reply

    That looks pretty damn good. Maybe I’ll try this instead of the other place the next time I’m craving a burrito bowl.

  9. Liz AN Nov 01 at 7:57 pm Reply Reply

    I’m with Amy, I was super skeptical at first, but the Cantina Burrito & Bowl were pretty fabulous…Taco Bell is back in the fast food rotation (much to the delight of my husband!)…

  10. kari weber Nov 01 at 11:04 pm Reply Reply

    I wish I could try… but all the Taco Bells in a 20 mile radius of me seem to have recently either gone out of business or burnt down… I was taking it as a sign.  Maybe they didn’t know this cantina bowl thing was on the way? 

    I would also like to say that as a LOVER of Amy, I totally enjoy posts like this even if I don’t like the product. She is such a great writer that anything she does is a comedy break in my day. And WHERE does it say that every mommy blogger needs to be working Pro Bono?? If that is a document y’all need to sign, please show it to me…

  11. Kimberly Nov 01 at 11:55 pm Reply Reply

    Long time secret Taco Bell lover here and I have to agree, the Cantina menu is nothing like their regular fare. Good flavors, ingredients and quite tasty.

  12. Rebecca S. Nov 02 at 1:55 am Reply Reply

    Ditto above.  Amy could write about deodorant and I’d love it.  Oh wait, she did.  And I laughed until I nearly peed my pants.  
    Great review–will have to try one next time I can tear myself away from the chicken quesadilla.  :)

  13. Kim Nov 02 at 7:58 pm Reply Reply

    Oy. Sponsored posts happen, people. Move on if you’re going to get bent out of shape. Me, I’m just happy that my drive-through options just expanded.

  14. Corinne Nov 02 at 9:12 pm Reply Reply

    I just want to give some mad props to Taco Bell for providing full allergen/sensitivity information, as well as information on their handling/cooking practices. So few fast food restaurants do this, it makes it a lot easier to make decisions about eating out!

  15. AU Nov 03 at 2:23 am Reply Reply

    Awesome review! I’m pretty pregnant and my husband refuses to let me eat unlimited Nacho Bell Grandes but I keep seeing the commercial for the cantina bowl and it looks so good and like look vegetables kind of. Totally going to try this now.

  16. Cristin Nov 05 at 5:20 pm Reply Reply

    I tried the cantina bowl about a month ago and was not impressed. The lettuce was watery and messed it all up. It does not compare to Chipotle’s burrito bowl. I do snicker at the radio commercial, “guys, lose da tor-teeya.” She has a great accent.

  17. Spookie Nov 10 at 8:31 am Reply Reply

    I have to agree with the comments about Taco Bell’s cantina bowl not being very tasty at all – especially compared to Chipotle’s burrito bowl.  No competition at all.

    Truth being told – when I had the cantina bowl, I wasn’t expecting it to be competition for Chipotle.  Because Taco Bell isn’t in competition with them.  But I had to try it, just to make sure.

    Nevertheless, if you want yourself some ricey, beany, chickenie (steak/fajita/pork-ie), cheesey, salsaie, cornie, lettucey, sour creamie, guacie, goodness… get your butt to Chipotle.  I also suggest getting the perfectly lime flavored crunchie chips and using your burrito bowl as a giant dip bowl.

    On the other hand, if you want your taco shell to be made from a Dorito and you want it handed to you out a drive-through window… then nothing says “I’m-not-home-cooked-but-I-taste-absolutely-delicious” like Taco Bell.

  18. Becki Nov 16 at 1:00 pm Reply Reply

    Actually LOVE reviews because I really don’t want to try all this stuff myself . . .and LOVE me some Taco Bell . .but always stay with my safe choice – the Mexican pizza … so thanks. Please expand this once in awhile – I WANT peeps to test my products so I dont waste money testing lemons myself! (My ONLY criticism is . .the repeated ‘bejesus’ phrase – can’t you just eat the ‘heck’ out of it? LOL)

  19. Jill Nov 18 at 8:12 pm Reply Reply

    I love the reviews – I want to know other peoples opinions of new products. And if it keeps a FREE blog going, so much the better. Anyone who reads Amy regularly knows the kind of food she eats and feeds her family. Taco Bell is an exeception, as is all fast food. Sometimes it’s a livesaver for a busy Mom.

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