Sunday, December 20, 2015

Knockout Tacos

Now that almost all of the NYC Qdoba locations have closed up, I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to their new items and promotions. But when we visited one of the only remaining NYC stores in Staten Island last weekend, I saw a flyer for new "knockout tacos" and my interest was immediately piqued. Tacos are one of my favorite things to eat, and I was really curious what they were doing now that was so different and such a "knockout."

Qdoba has always offered tacos that could be filled with any of the toppings on the line, but never with specific flavor combinations. The knockout tacos came in 6 varieties - 2 chicken, 2 steak, 1 pork, and 1 veggie, and from a cursory look around online, it seems they came out around Halloween. The pricing might vary around the country, but here you can get a single taco for $3.50 or an order of 3 for $9. I ditched my usual salad/burrito bowl and went for the 3 taco deal. (As a side note, I was supposed to write a post last year when Qdoba switched to the free guacamole model, praising them for that decision since I hate paying extra for guacamole, but never got around to it, so noting my appreciation for that here.)

The first taco I tried was the Mad Rancher, which had grilled chicken, bacon, guacamole, picante ranch, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese. The bacon wasn't strips or large pieces, but those little bacon bits you throw on top of salads or things like that. This taco was my least favorite of the 3, but it was still a pretty good choice. My thought after trying it was that it was a good version of a basic American-style grilled chicken taco. There was creamy guacamole and ranch dressing, pico de gallo, cheese, things that I don't usually find on tacos at Mexican places, but still enjoy.

The second one I tried was the Drunken Yardbird, filled with tequila lime chicken, guacamole, salsa verde, cilantro, minced onion, and cotija cheese. The tequila lime chicken was really good, much more flavor than the usual grilled chicken. This was my favorite of the 3 tacos. In direct contrast to the one before it, this one reminded me the most of the tacos that I get at Mexican spots. Marinated chicken in a corn tortilla topped with onion, cilantro, salsa verde, one of my favorite types of tacos.

The final one in the trio was the Two Timer, with pulled pork, salsa roja, shredded cheese, lettuce, cotija cheese, and pico de gallo inside of a crispy taco shell, which was itself wrapped inside a flour tortilla that was spread with 3 cheese queso. Back when I used to order a lot of delivery at work, I remember ordering from a place that made a lot of tacos like this - a crispy taco inside of a soft taco. I always found that textural contrast kind of fun, and that was the same with this one. This one was certainly the most decadent of the 3 tacos, mostly because of the rich queso, but the queso also helped neutralize the heat of the salsa roja, which I think is the spiciest of the salsas. The pork itself tasted good, and I would get this one again.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the tacos. I didn't think they would be that different from the "build your own" style of tacos Qdoba had before, but whoever put together the flavor combinations did a good job. Matching the particular toppings to the flavorings of the proteins, as opposed to using the same toppings on every tacos, worked well here. When I used to build my own, I would just throw on as many toppings (especially salsas/vegetables) as I could, but these were better tailored and edited. Getting a set of 3 tacos is a little more expensive than getting a burrito bowl (which arguably could be more food), but they're a solid choice.

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