Oh taco, sweet taco — in terms of pure convenience there is no finer food. Savory meat, vegetables and spice wrapped lovingly in corn or flour, the taco's greatest strength is the edible container you hold in your hand. From the finest restaurants, the shadiest street vendor or a fast food chain that's been bastardizing Mexican cuisine for decades, tacos have traditionally been about what's inside the shell. With the Doritos Locos Tacos and now the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, Taco Bell wants us to think outside the shell.
That these co-branded snacks require an exterior sleeve to hold and eat makes them the antithesis of the taco ideal. A taco is a safe place to hold ground beef, chicken, steak, bone marrow, fish, pork and any combination of veggies and sauces. Teaming with Frito-Lay, Taco Bell has made a pair of decidedly unsafe tacos.
I would condemn any other eatery for such a move but let's face it: what's inside a Taco Bell taco isn't exactly prime eating material.
Just look at that — lettuce more white than green, cheese more oil than milk, and meat that seems more not-meat than meat. These are not things deserving the spotlight, so anything that manages to distract from them is a welcome addition.
So we look to the exterior of the Doritos Locos Taco for comfort.
The first offering in the fast food cross-over was simply called the Doritos Locos Taco, replacing the normal Taco Bell shell with an emergency orange, cheese powder-dusted folded corn container. These are tasty, in a horrible sort of way, but the strength of the Nacho Cheese Dorito walks hand-in-hand with its weaknesses. Even the most stalwart cardboard sleeve is not powerful enough to prevent your fingers from turning the color of Tang. You cannot eat the original Doritos Locos Taco without leaving Macbethian traces of diabolical cheese on your very soul.
The Cool Ranch variety has all of the strengths of its predecessor and none of its weaknesses. It is the Taco-Walker, cursed to live between two worlds, accepted by neither. Instead of cheese powder, the only sign of its passing is the telltale green and red specks, which can be explained away in any number of festive ways (I killed Smurf Christmas).
There's a tanginess to the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco that the Nacho Cheese version lacks, and those magnificent colored spices apply a lingering mild burn to the taster's tongue. The shell even has a scent, like an incredibly cheap salad bar gone slightly bad. I'm not going to try to convince you that last bit is a good thing. Just rest assured that it is.
As I mention in the video, I only partook of the non-"supreme" version of the Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco, largely due to the questionable supremacy of sour cream and tomatoes, but also because if I go that far I might-as-well just make myself a salad with some non-crushed fruit-vegetable and lettuce that doesn't taste like I am eating it out of a hole in the ground.
The Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Locos are a marked improvement over the Nacho Cheese version, making it even harder to taste the things that Taco Bell stuffs inside them. Traditional tacos have never been about the shell, but then traditional tacos aren't filled with shit.