Del Taco has two new deep-fried snack items on the menu: caramel apple crunch bites and mac 'n cheese crunch bites, a returning champ that's back "by popular demand" if the in-store signage can be trusted. After tasting several items on the summer menu back in July, I wasn't too optimistic that the crunch bites would be anything more than passably edible, so I ordered the smaller size of each (5 pieces of the caramel apple for $1.59, and 4 pieces of the mac for $1.79).
Two minutes after the photos were taken, all of the food was gone, but in this case, it wasn't because I walked down the hall and unceremoniously dumped it down the garbage chute. It's because both of the crunch bites were inhaled in seconds. Yep, that actually happened.
The caramel apple crunch bites are stuffed with warm apple pie filling. I was expecting molten goo on the inside but instead, there were chunks of apple both soft and still firm enough to have a pleasant crunch.
The batter was crisp and a bit flaky, and the caramel sauce was glossy, with a balanced sweetness. It had a tinge of butter flavor, like breakfast syrup, and wasn't so sweet that you couldn't double (or triple) dip each crunchy stick. I'd take an order of these over a McDonald's apple pie any day.
The mac 'n cheese version was even tastier. The triangle-shaped bites are covered with a flaky batter that tastes like crisp, griddled cheese. Inside, al dente noodles are coated in a thick, gooey sauce that's creamy, with sharp cheesy notes. There's no doubt that it was frozen at some point, and it's no substitute for homemade mac, but it's actually quite tasty as a quick, cheap snack.
The bites don't come with a dipping sauce, and they're just fine plain, but you could definitely dunk them in some nacho cheese sauce or salsa, or slip a few of them into a taco or under a burger bun.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax