Crappy Food Critic #06: Taco Bell Habanero & Ghost Pepper Daredevil Loaded Grillers


Once again, our sub-culinary travels take us through the Taco Bell drive-thru, but it’s not the Cap’n with whom we seek an audience this time…..


The Bell’s new Daredevil Loaded Grillers come in three flavors: mild/chipotle, hot/habanero, and fiery/ghost pepper. Each one contains ground beef, crunchy red tortilla strips for texture, and one of three sauces. I didn’t bother with mild, because 1) come on, and 2) true daredevils don’t waste their time in search of “mild” action. Like heat-seeking missiles, it is heat we, um … seek. So I went straight for the two spicier variants.

Although the “Triple Threat” poster advertising these items shows them wrapped in shiny color-coded foil, I only received paper wrapping, and as such I wasn’t able to tell the two grillers apart by external appearance. I thought I ate the habanero one first, because the sauce reminded me immediately of the habanero ranch dipping sauce McDonald’s offers with their McNuggets. Also, I wasn’t getting the hiccu-burps that anything approaching ghost pepper heat tends to give me. Now, however, I think it was the ghost pepper griller I ate first, for reasons I’ll get to soon enough.

TB’s fire sauce is my heart and my everything, but it seemed redundant to go slathering it on something already spicy. I tried it anyway, and surprisingly it paired well with the griller. It’s odd to say that fire sauce has or can ever have lightness of any kind, but compared against the sauce in the griller, it was like a split-second sorta-spicy amuse-bouche before the real heat hit. I feel a bit bad that I emasculated trusty old fire sauce like that, but it was in the name of rigorous, frontier-expanding food science, with only good intentions.

Though adequately spicy, the first griller had no build to speak of. It started hot and was easy to acclimate to. As such, toward the end as I was getting used to it, it started losing the punch. It never came close to any territory I would consider “disappointing”, though. The spice level was perfect for my tastes, though your mileage may vary.

It was the first bite of the second griller that made me think I’d started at the far end of the spice spectrum rather than the less-hot side. This one did not give off nearly the same burn. In fact, it was hard to tell what was going on at all. Whatever it was, it was very muddled. I finally got some fire in the last few bites, and although it was kind of smoky, it was still uninteresting and overall weak compared to the first griller. However, sometime later, I began to suspect that the lingering heat from the ghost pepper griller may have interfered with the flavor of the habanero griller, giving me a faulty impression of it. 

Since I walked away from the first experience largely confused, I decided to stop by again after work the next day and grab another griller to clear things up. I’m not fishing for sympathy, but I just want you to know that it was over 100 degrees outside, and my car lacks working air conditioning, and the two cars before me in line decided to order the entire left side of the menu, and at one point a cricket sought succor from the heat inside one of my pant legs. Not complaining; just letting you know what I go through in order to bring you pointless information about junk food.

I only ordered one griller the second time around, the ghost pepper one, and it tasted more similar to the first one I had eaten the night before. It was just as tasty the second time around, but I realized later on in good old HD hindsight that I should have gotten the habanero griller so that I could approach it with a clean palate and get the proper impression from it. Facepalm! Science is hard to do.

So for the third time in as many days, I went through the drive-thru, purchasing only the habanero griller on the final run. It still had the same murky flavor on untainted taste buds, as if the same sauce as in the ghost pepper griller was used and they were just somehow tamping it down to get it to a lower heat level. It was about this time it occurred to me that there was nothing especially habanero-ey or ghost peppery about either griller, and that it was possible that Taco Bell had just repurposed a huge load of volcano sauce they had no use for since discontinuing the Volcano menu.

One note, apropos of most of nothing written above: it seems to me that Yum! Brands missed a plum cross-promotion opportunity here, in this case with Netflix. I’m not a hotshot marketing guy, but I wonder why Taco Bell’s people didn’t get on the phone with Netflix’s people and be all like, “Hey, we’ve got these spicy dollar menu things we’re going to roll out and they’re going to have ‘Daredevil’ in the name. If we were to run a slogan like ‘For true superheroes only’ or ‘They’re so spicy they’ll make you go blind’, would you be down for that? Ping us back. Tell the missus we said hi.” You know you’re selling at least five or six million more of these things if Marvel is attached. They should have at least tried. This is a huge oversight.

“They’re Elektra-fying … too soon?”


With or without a superhero’s endorsement, Taco Bell’s Daredevil Loaded Grillers require little, if any daredevilry to eat. Although the ghost pepper one might upset those of a less tolerant constitution, and it’s probable there’s nothing even remotely resembling bhut jolokia in it, it is without question the tastiest of the three. Look at the hand in the picture reaching for the ghost pepper griller. That guy knows the score! If these succeed, might I suggest a Carolina Reaper Loaded Griller? Oh well. A boy can dream, anyway.
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