They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes, it’s not always the case. At times, the clone is seen as an inferior product to the source material, lacking in various areas that makes the original a fantastic product. I recently ventured to a local Taco Bell on my lunch break and saw they were advertising their brand new products, the Cantina Bowl and Cantina Burrito. I had previously seen commercials and various adverts touting these new items, and at first glance, they looked strangely familiar to something else I had eaten before. If you already know where I’m going with this, these new Cantina products are meant to be a blatant knockoff of rival company, Chipotle. But I tend to be a sucker for new products, so I figured I’d give the Cantina Bowl a try. Going back to my office with an empty stomach and an open mind, I anticipated chowing down on something similar to a product from a restaurant that is not within a reasonable driving distance from both my home and office.
As I ate my Cantina Bowl, my optimism slowly downshifted to a bittersweet feeling after each bite. As I sat there chewing, I contemplated the comparisons between the original product to what I was consuming. I thought about things like quality and presentation, taste and overall value of the products.
Here we have Chipotle’s Burrito Bowl:
Versus Taco Bell’s Cantina Bowl:
Quality and Presentation:
Both Chipotle and Taco Bell both plate the product in similar fashion. A layer of cilantro lime rice, beans lettuce and other veggies, a meat product (or more beans if you’re a vegetarian) and top it off with salsa and sauces. Similarities here end when you look at both products, and think about what is in them. Taco Bell only has the three choices of Chicken, Steak or Veggie, as opposed to Chipotle’s touted selection of organic, naturally raised farm chickens, cows and pigs that are used as the meat for the bowls. Also if you looked at the images above, the lettuce in Taco Bell’s bowl looks wilted since it was coated in some form of southwest dressing, which made it lose some appeal with me, while Chipotle’s crisp lettuce doesn’t have to be coated to try to make it look more like a salad. Point goes to Chipotle.
Score: Chipotle – 1/Taco Bell – 0.
The Cantina Bowl really didn’t seem to stand out, the rice seemed a bit undercooked at times, but the different salsas on top barely masked the flavor. It tasted like I was eating a knockoff product. On the other hand, the Burrito Bowls different flavors meld together to create this fiesta in your mouth. It brings together the flavors of the corn salsa, pico de gallo and guacamole (if you decide to pay extra) with the other items you put in. Point goes to Chipotle.
Score: Chipotle – 2/Taco Bell – 0
Taco Bell has ALWAYS been a source of inexpensive southwestern food. The Cantina Bowl costs about $6 (depending on where you live…metropolitan areas are going to cost more), with the combo running about close to $9 after tax. You’re going to have to shell out $8 for the Burrito Bowl (and about $2 more if you opted for guacamole). Here’s the thing, after I ate the whole Burrito Bowl along with the chips, I still felt hungry. If you’re going to pay $9 for a meal, it should at least make you feel somewhat full. The times I’ve eaten half a Burrito Bowl, the full feeling sets in. Also at Taco Bell, you just the choice of Chicken, Steak, and Vegetarian…as opposed to Chipotle, you can choose from barbacoa (barbecued beef), braised carnitas (pulled pork), marinated chicken or steak, down to choosing which beans you want. Each product gets a point here. Taco Bell gets one for Price. Chipotle gets one for Overall Value.
Final Score: Chipotle – 3/Taco Bell – 1
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy dining at both establishments. Next time you go to Taco Bell, have a little extra money to spend, and want to try something new, I suggest just trying the Cantina products just to say you tried them…maybe you’ll form an opinion that varies from mine.
Until next time,
-Jon “Hipster Panda”