At the relevancy-fueled urging of his colleagues at SF Gate, critic Michael Bauer climbed down from his “pedestal of high-end dining” to critique the Naked Chicken Chalupa from Taco Bell. It’s an interesting choice given NY Times critic Pete Well’s recent zero star review of Locol, which incited questions about whether a typically fine dining critic has any business in a place with $5 burgers.
But, it is not Bauer’s first foray into fast food criticism, nor is it is first foray into the delights of mass-produced, craving satiating chain restaurants. In his own words, Bauer admits his hankering for Taco Bell tacos, and love of Popeye’s fried chicken [Editor’s note: he’s not wrong]. It’s not for nothing that chemistry labs spend millions perfecting the recipes for these products.
Similar to his typical timeline for visiting new restaurants, the critic dropped by early on day one at the rarefied Taco Bell Cantina (the upscale model designed to lure in urban hipsters) at 3rd and Townsend. Although the staff was still “in learning mode,” the obscene creation was available— a breaded chicken patty shaped and fried like a taco shell, then filled with avocado ranch dressing, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cheese ($3.49).
So, the verdict? Despite an oily first bite, the depraved food item quickly earned Bauer’s love and devotion, prompting him to order a second one. Bauer relished the spice of the meat all the way back to his office, a mile away.
So is it fair for a critic to review a fast food restaurant? Unclear. In this case, Bauer did the real heavy lifting on what could’ve been a disaster. So excuse us, it’s time to head for the border.