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The Early Word on America's First Boozy Taco Bell Cantina

Chicago gets to "live mas" with a hit or miss alcohol selection at the new and trendy location of the Mexican fast-food chain.

Taco Bell Cantina
Taco Bell Cantina
Marc Much

Chicagoans who want booze with their fast-food tacos can rejoice, as the country’s first Taco Bell serving alcohol is officially open. If the city wasn’t already the envy of the food world, the Wicker Park concept is sure to turn some heads. The modern, sleek space is a step up from the norm expected at the fast-food chain and features an open kitchen, new shareable items and most importantly, "Twisted Freezes" loaded with rum, vodka or tequila in addition to beer and wine. So far the feedback has been mostly positive, praising it for what it is: a boozy Taco Bell.

The drinks: Sara Amato of RedEye says "you know exactly what you’re in for" with the Mountain Dew Baja Blast and calls it the "best Twisted Freeze of the night." Similarly, the Cantina Punch is a "good frozen drink" that has "a little wine taste to it, but it wasn’t overly sweet." She cautions staying away from the Cantina Margarita though as the "sugar overload was almost unbearable."

Anthony Todd of Chicagoist is not so fond of the Baja Blast with Ketel One Vodka, claiming it "takes everything good out of Mountain Dew and replaces it with bland sweetness." The Cantina Margarita doesn’t fare much better and is "an affront to the name margarita" but the Cantina Punch is "not half bad" and pairs well with rum. As for the other alcoholic choices? Todd warns that "anyone ordering wine at Taco Bell probably deserves whatever hell the gods choose to mete out."

Like Amato, Ian Chillag of NPR is a fan of the "delicious" and "supersweet" Baja Blast with tequila, equating it to a daiquiri "you'd make if you were 8 years old and given the chance to bartend." He's less enthusiastic about the Twisted Margarita, which "tastes like the powder you use to make Lemon-Lime Gatorade before you mix it with water."

Mamatha C. gives a glowing review on Yelp, writing that the Cantina Punch with rum and Baja Blast with tequila were both "very tasty." Her only complaint is that "they’re not strong at all" and suggests allowing for a double shot option.

The food: "Everything was just as delicious as you would expect Taco Bell to be," writes Amato. She also calls the new chicken tenders a "game changer." Geoff H. agrees on Twitter, saying he "went to the Wicker Park Taco Bell so you don't have to. Verdict: never again, but their chicken tenders are REALLY good." Mamatha C. echoes Amato’s sentiments, stating the menu "tasted as good here if not a little better than at other sites."

Taking the hype train even further, Raf Miastkowski of AskMen had the "best taco supreme" ever. It "tasted just a little snappier than the million other taco supremes [he’s] had" and the tomatoes "were actually red, unlike the milky-pink chunks" he usually gets. Ryan L.'s three star review on Yelp highlights the $5 shareable rolled tacos as a "pretty good deal."

The space: With communal tables, long benches and big screen TVs, Amato thinks it has a "way of making you feel right at home" and "fits right in with the surrounding restaurants." The dining room reminds Chillag of another fast-food chain, saying "it looks like Taco Bell saw how Chipotle dressed on the first day of junior high and begged its mom to get it the same clothes."

Miastkowski is happy with the "more-welcoming vibe" while the numerous USB ports and outlets throughout the restaurant make it "good for lingering," according to Ryan L. Finally, Alex K. sums it up best on Yelp by calling it a "really nice cool Taco Bell" that’s a good spot to meet some friends for "food and a drink before moving on to a bar."

Taco Bell Cantina

321 1st Avenue, Manhattan, NY 10003 (332) 333-0642 Visit Website

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