After a brief absence from the UT community, Taco Bell is back with a fresh spin on its business model. In addition to the pseudo-Mexican food it’s famous for, it will now be serving alcoholic beverages in a cozy sit-down dining room.
Upon entering Taco Bell Cantina on the Drag, it is immediately apparent that the owners are trying to foster a comfortable and modern ambiance where students will want to hang out and study. The walls are plastered with bright street art depictions of food, the speakers blast pop hits and every table is accompanied with a power outlet for laptop chargers.
While the effort to offer a place for students to relax and study is commendable, all the free Wi-Fi and power outlets in the world can’t make up for the uncomfortably small tables and room. Taco Bell was far more practical when it was located in the Texas Union, where students had ample room to work and eat.
As for the food, nothing on the menu differs from normal Taco bell options, aside from the sharable section of the menu, which is essentially just a collection of appetizer-sized versions of classic Taco Bell dishes.
Despite having a larger kitchen and longer wait times than the average Taco Bell, the food remains as lazily thrown together as ever. The tortillas still taste like paper, the meat options are still generally indistinguishable from one another and the chips are still a bit too stale.
The only thing that actually sets Taco Bell Cantina apart from any other Taco Bell, aside from the lack of a drive-thru, is the alcohol.
The alcoholic options are impressive compared to the rest of the lackluster menu. The liquor and beer offered include some local favorites such as Treaty Oak Rum and Tequila 512, and beers such as Live Oak Brewery and (512) Brewing are on tap.
But the mixed drinks are just as sloppily prepared as the food.
The main focus of the alcohol menu is the selection of alcoholic slushies, or Twisted Freezes. These frozen drinks are a good idea in theory, but the execution is abysmal.
Patrons choose the slushy flavor and added alcohol — vodka, tequila or rum — but instead of incorporating the alcohol throughout the entire slushy, the cashier crudely poured a shot of liquor on top of the slushy.
The end result is a plastic cup filled with slushy and topped off with a pool of liquor.
“I feel like I’d be better off just buying a regular slush and taking it home to mix it with alcohol myself for way less money,” said public relations junior John Roland.
By eliminating the drive-thru and relocating off campus, Taco Bell Cantina lost what made Taco Bell ideal for students to begin with: convenience. While it’s a cool novelty experience to sit down in a hip version of Taco Bell and enjoy a drink alongside a Quesarito, it quickly becomes apparent that the whole experience would be better spent at home, or at least in a bigger dining room where you can have a little more leg room.
“The food is fine and it’s kind of cool to catch a buzz at a Taco Bell,” said customer Matt Stein. “I don’t know if it’s worth a visit back, though.”
The names in this story have been changed.
Taco Bell Cantina
Location: 2000 Guadalupe St.
Hours: 7-12 a.m.
Recommended Dish: Doubledilla - Steak with Chips & Salsa