Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Del Taco Chicken Soft Tacos: A Somewhat Irrational Love Affair
Yes, if I can somehow convince McDonald's to bring back Shanghai McNuggets it will stand as one of the greatest moments of my life. But the truth is that I think McNuggets are merely average; with chicken breasts and 50 cents worth of ingredients I can make something in my oven that I consider superior.
Wendy's spicy chicken nuggets are delicious and a great value but their disappearance would not cause me to shed any tears. Popeyes popcorn shrimp, Wienerschnitzel's mini corn dogs, White Castle sliders... I like 'em all. But if I could handle the loss of Jack in the Box's toasted raviolis half my life ago, I could handle losing any of those items.
When I think about it - and I just thought about it for much longer than is probably healthy - there are only three fast food items whose disappearance would really bum me out: In-N-Out's Double-Double, Church's boneless wings, and Del Taco's chicken soft tacos.
The last of those have never appeared on this blog in their original form, and that blows my mind, because I do love them. Even though I don't actually think they're all that good. The tortillas are average (although by fast food tortilla standards, "average" is about as good as it gets), the chicken is slightly rubbery, and there is a "secret sauce" covering the insides that mostly tastes like a runny mayonnaise. But the combination of all these ingredients provides me pleasure every time. The whole is not only greater than the sum of its parts, it's greater than I know it should be. I don't want to love these, but then again we don't get to choose these things.
Friends of mine, with whom I grew up in Pasadena and have now moved throughout the country to places without In-N-Out, have mentioned how much they would give to have one close by. And I can understand their longing, but to be honest I would miss Del Taco much more.
I once drove from Auburn, California to Rock Springs, Wyoming in a single day. (800 miles on the dot, in case you're wondering.) Just outside of Reno I passed a Del Taco at about noon. Damn, chicken soft tacos sound good, I thought to myself. But there were two 18-wheelers and I couldn't get over. I'll just wait for the next Del Taco. But there wasn't one. Hours later I broke down and stopped to eat in Utah. That night in Wyoming I was still craving those chicken soft tacos.
Leftover chicken soft tacos are even better the next day and are one of the few things that I actually don't mind heating in the microwave, though I must add that they need to be refrigerated overnight. There is a story there but let's not go into it.
Well, what the hell, I'm amongst friends. Let's go into it.
My friend Tom and I once spent more than twelve hours at a pub ("Soccer Jersey Day," we called it, he wearing his French national kit and I in my Liverpool FC long-sleeved jersey... the things you do when you're 23) and had a cab take us home that night, for obvious reasons. But first we bribed the cabbie to take us by Del Taco. In my memory we ordered 20 chicken soft tacos, but that can't be right. (Well, yeah... it can.) In the morning when we woke up there were still at least a dozen of those beautiful tacos hardening on the coffee table. We let them go.
And many more occasions over the years when the chicken soft tacos have hit the spot. When Elizabeth and I can't decide what to do for dinner and we're both too lazy to cook, a suggestion of Del Taco has never once been met with a no.
When Del Taco releases one of these tacos dressed-up with a different sauce than the secret sauce, as in the case of the Santa Fe chicken soft taco or the Spicy Chicken Mole soft taco, they are much better than normal. So that gave me an idea: why not order a few chicken soft tacos without sauce and add my own? See if I can come up with anything as good as those Del Taco promotions?
in my hot sauce adventure last month, was a much better fit. The cayenne peppers and vinegar provided a wonderful boost, merging beautifully with the chicken.
their excellent shrimp tacos. The girl at the drive-though told me yes and gave me a small container. It tasted very similar to the "secret sauce" that I was trying to avoid on these tacos. It didn't have a lot of flavor. Ordinarily I would have added a few drops of hot sauce as well, but I decided to eat it as is. It wasn't bad, but it didn't have any of the kick I enjoy in these tacos.
So, in what I probably could have predicted at the outset, the two hot sauces that I love turned out to be the best complements to the tacos. Funny, I mentioned earlier that Del Taco's chicken soft tacos have never appeared on this blog in their original form. They still haven't.
I probably won't be in the mood for any more of these for a long time. At least a couple of days.
Posted by JustinM at 10:47 AM