I have seen the future of fast food bargains, and its name is Fiery Doritos Locos Taco. For a while now I've been tracking the success of the Doritos Locos Taco concept and was excited to learn that a third DLT was launching this summer.
Today in the interests of journalism I ventured to the basement of Washington, D.C.'s Union Station to try out one of the new Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos on its debut day. It is, simply put, a triumph. The best DLT yet, the best thing on the Taco Bell menu, and the best bargain in fast food today.
A Doritos Locos Taco, if you don't know, is a hard taco where the shell is made up of Doritos chips. The DLT series debuted with the most famous Doritos flavor—nacho cheese. Then it expanded to Cool Ranch, which I don't really care for as a chip but is at least OK as a taco shell. For the third entry, though, they did something interesting. There is no "fiery" flavor of Doritos. The Fiery DLT clearly takes some inspiration from Flamas-flavored Doritos, but it's branded separately.
It's also delicious. As with the rest of the DLT series, the slightly odd mouthfeel of Doritos blends quite nicely with the equally odd mouthfeel of Taco Bell ground beef. But with the Fiery DLT you really get heat. This is one spicy taco shell. The spicy shell plays brilliantly off the cool blandness of the shredded iceberg lettuce that tops the taco, and is wonderfully complemented by the fatty goodness of the cheese. The beef adds some heft and protein. You're left with a Fiery Doritos aftertaste that's quite pleasant and the urge for another bite. It's an extremely well-balanced dish, and at a $1.49 price point at the location I visited you really can't beat it.
For a 50 cent upcharge you can also get a "Supreme" version of the taco. Supreme in this case seems to mean diced tomatoes and a layer of sour cream. This is fine a food product, but it wasn't really doing much of anything for me. The tomatoes on their own are basically flavorless and the total impact is mostly to alter the balance of the dish and create a risk of sour cream leakage. And even though the upcharge is small in absolute terms, in relative terms you're talking about a large increase in price. The profit margins must be higher on this and it's smart for Taco Bell to offer the option, but it wouldn't be my recommended choice.*
But the plain old Fiery Doritos Locos Taco is a triumph. The ultimate proof that innovation is alive and well in America today.
* Correction: An earlier version of this post attributed the high margins and smart business decision to Doritos.