In the space of a week, news has broken that Taco Bell plans to open locations in West Frankfort and Du Quoin.
In West Frankfort, a groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 20 to celebrate the beginning of construction on a Taco Bell near the city's outlet mall. In Du Quoin, construction is expected to start within a month on a Taco Bell location in Southtowne Shopping Center.
Even before we learned about these two new locations of the fast food chain coming to Southern Illinois, our newsroom has been abuzz (as had the internet) over Taco Bell's newest creation: a taco with fried chicken for a shell.
It's officially called the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Instead of a taco shell (which, at Taco Bell, typically resembles a crunchy tortilla), we have a taco-shaped piece of fried chicken, filled with avocado ranch sauce, cheese, tomato and lettuce. There is no kind of taco meat inside — the shell is the meat. You can customize, of course, by adding different sauces and fillings, but we went with the original.
(The video above was originally posted on our Snapchat, by the way. Follow us there; our username is soillinoisan.)
For the calorie counters out there (I am one), this thing comes in at 440 calories. Photo editor Byron Hetzler was nice enough to split one with me, but even if I had eaten a whole one (I'm glad I didn't), it wouldn't have broken my calorie budget for the day.
I had been pretty excited to try this thing. I've been on a weight loss quest since the beginning of the year, and even though I wouldn't normally have eaten fast food like Taco Bell, knowing I'm limiting myself from junk food just makes me want it more.
I had been daydreaming about the Naked Chicken Chalupa. Byron and I spent some time last week in my cubicle researching it on the Taco Bell website, considering all the ways it could be customized. I sent Tom English, The Southern's interim editor, an instant message last week just to say I was thinking about the fried chicken taco.
So I had built this thing up in my head. I imagined the fried chicken shell would be crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and oozing with spicy sauce.
It should come as no surprise that I was disappointed.
It reminded me of a high school cafeteria-grade spicy chicken sandwich without the bun. Eh.
Reporter Molly Parker put it best: "I would not have it as my last meal, but I would try it again."
And Tom, who doesn't even really like chicken, enjoyed it.
It was over-hyped, like all of Taco Bell's food. (If you're craving Mexican, why not grab a taco with onion and cilantro from a local Mexican taqueria, like Little House of Tacos or El Paisano?)
But, hey, I know there's something magical about a late night trip through the Taco Bell drive-through. West Frankfort and Du Quoin will soon be able to enjoy that magic.