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Fast Food

Taco Bell Parent Brand Opens Bougie Vietnamese Fast Food, Calls Pho ‘Chicken Soup’

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Up until now, good Vietnamese restaurants have been notoriously frill-free. There’s very little effort spent appeasing guests with friendly waiters or even translated menus. You go, you enjoy the kaleidoscopic medleys of rice noodles, pickled carrots, basil, and proteins wrapped in rice paper or steeped in broth, you pay, and you leave.

Well folks, it seems we’re finally ready to give Vietnamese food the Panda Express treatment. Say hello to the Banh Shop.

With its first location opening this Friday in Dallas, Texas, the Banh Shop is Yum Brand’s ambiguously authentic yet ambiguously new age take on all that is mainstream Vietnamese food, from banh mi sandwiches to bun (dry noodle salads) to pho. Except they don’t really call it pho. Nope, they’re calling it “Vietnamese-Style Chicken Soup.” Gag me with an Asian soup spoon.

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Everything on the menu has been neatly repackaged (read: dumbed down and hipster-ed up) for the Insta- generation. Rather than plain photos of sandwiches identified solely by their protein (beef, pork), guests will find “Grilled Steak” on the menu, along with trendy flowery descriptions like “sliced and char-grilled with honey caramel glaze” and “cucumber-cilantro aioli”; or the “Breakfast All Day,” a two egg omelet sandwich with “ground seasoned pork & sliced smoked ham, with ribbon-cut cucumber & cilantro; with honey-garlic aioli.”

There are also spring rolls, “Wok’d” rice and noodle bowls, pho as we’ve said, bun, a salad, a kind of Vietnamese eloté dressed with coconut milk, butter, and fish sauce, Vietnamese iced coffee, a ginger margarita, a passion fruit colada, and craft beers.

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We should note that this is all a gripe over form — the food could taste perfectly amazing. Last month, we ventured to Yum Brand’s other new Americana, travel, and fusion-inspired venture, U.S. Taco Co., and were moderately impressed. But you have to admit that when the “authentic street food” aesthetic can be commoditized by the same brand who runs Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, it’s probably kind of sort of okay way, way overdone.

We’d rather take one of these places any day.

Categories
Fast Food

FIRST LOOK: Taco Bell’s Bougie New Fast Casual Concept U.S. Taco Co.

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Take Taco Bell. Subtract the dubious ingredients. Add a beachy-chic aesthetic and Dia Del Los Muertos skull. Keep the pink and purple. Now you have U.S. Taco Co.

Sure, the exact math is a bit more complicated, involving 50 different states and 18 months of planning, but the result is still a fancy new fast casual concept from Taco Bell that’s just about as authentically inauthentic as you can get.

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Co-founded by T-Bell chef Rene Pisciotti and Marketing Director Jeff Jenkins, USTC is Taco Bell for folks who don’t like Taco Bell. Inspired by travel and foodie culture, the menu takes America’s most iconic dishes, from philly cheesesteaks to fried chicken, and transforms them in a way only Taco Bell knows how. That is, by making them into tacos that aren’t really tacos, but taste pretty bomb anyway.

According to Pisciotti, all ingredients on the menu are either house-made, sourced from the same suppliers as Taco Bell, or flown in from where they were inspired, such as brisket for the “Not My First Rodeo” from Texas, or the lobsters for “The 1%-er” from the North Atlantic. Most of the restaurant’s ten tacos feature six inch, soft flour tortillas from Mission brand, though flatbreads, corn, and crispy corn shells also make an appearance.

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On the rest of the menu you’ll find steak-cut fritas, real leche milkshakes, a broad selection of craft sodas from all over the country — a play on the traditional American spread of burgers, fries, and shakes — and an extensive craft beer and cocktail program for future locations, the next of which will “probably” be somewhere in Southern California, near Taco Bell’s Irvine HQ. Due to riots at last year’s U.S. Open of Surf, the city of Huntington Beach would not issue new liquor licenses for the Huntington Beach flagship.

Check out more of our photos from the press preview below, and relish in the fact that there is not a single Doritos Locos Taco to be found.

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U.S. Taco Co. opens next Monday, August 11. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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U.S. Taco Co.
150 5th St.,
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Categories
Fast Food

Taco Bell Admits Classy People Don’t Eat Waffle Tacos, Opens New Chain that Serves Lobster Rolls and Fried Chicken Tacos

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The folks over at Taco Bell never seem to take a minute before jumping into their next venture. Though it looks like this next move isn’t going to be a new Doritos Locos Taco. Instead, they plan to create an entirely new fast-casual restaurant called The US Taco Co. Set to open at a test location this summer in Huntington Beach, Calif., US Taco Co. will feature more quality ingredients than Taco Bell.

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According to Ad Age, Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed felt there was a market of customers that “would probably never become regular Taco Bell patrons.” Instead of focusing on rebranding the Taco Bell menu solely to attract them, they decided to pool their resources into developing a separate restaurant that would serve higher-end food.

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The menu includes items that bear no resemblance to the Taco Bell brand. You won’t find a Waffle Taco here, people. One of the US Taco Co.’s featured tacos is the Winner Winner, a crispy chicken taco made with South of the Border Southern Gravy, roasted corn Pico de Gallo, fresh jalapeños and cilantro. The Brotherly Love is the restaurant’s take on a Philly Cheesesteak featuring carne asada steak, grilled peppers and onions, roasted poblano queso, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro. There’s even word that a lobster roll representing New England will make it’s way to the menu.

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Other menu items include Papas Fritas with Habanero Dust and Ghost Chili Ketchup, Loaded Carne Asada Fries and a Mexican Car Bomb Shake made with Tequila Caramel Sauce, Chocolate Flakes, Guinness Stout and Premium Vanilla Ice Cream. The fast-casual world of Mexican food has pretty much been dominated by Chipotle and now it looks like US Taco Co. aims to make a statement towards their competition.

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Interestingly enough, Taco Bell’s parent company Yum Brands, which is coincidentally parent to KFC, also recently opened a fast-casual fried chicken store in Texas. Does this mean our favorite fast food chains could be branching off into the QSR field in the near future?