Gallery: Which Chain Makes the Best Ground Beef Taco?

  • Green Burrito Salsa Bar

    Green Burrito is also the only fast food Mexican chain we tried to even consider offering a salsa bar. Kudos to you on your token attempt to provide vibrant salsa roja, pico de gallo, chopped onions and cilantro, Green Burrito.

    Taco Bell: Soft Taco

    Taco Bell is the bigshot on the list, with the most locations worldwide. They also happen to be the most inventive with their ground beef tacos, offering the ingredients up in all manner of devices: Doritos shells, crispy Gordita concoctions, or hard-shell-wrapped-in-beans-wrapped-in-soft-shell, Inception style.

    The soft shell taco is perhaps their most well-known; it’s practically given away as a side with every purchase. The warm flour tortilla shows slight leoparding and a touch of crunch to make it easily the best fast food version we tried. The beef is as wet as the rest, but with plenty of spice to give it a salty, lightly chili-powdered taste. Despite the forgettable orange cheddar cheese, the rest of the toppings (including an errant tomato or two) were crisp, fresh and vibrant.

    Taco Bell: Crunch Supreme Taco

    Swap the decent soft tortilla for a dry, cold corn shell and layer up with a tub of sour cream and you’ve got yourself a Crunch Supreme taco. The cheddar cheese remains unmelted, but the addition of tomatoes and lettuce makes for an up-and-down experience.

    Taco Bell: Double Decker Taco

    If you like the add-ons of the Crunch Supreme but find yourself pining for the soft flour tortilla, you can spring the extra few cents for a Double Decker taco, and get beans as an added bonus. Basically a hard-shelled Supreme wrapped in a flour tortilla with beans as an intermediate binding, the play of different textures is an inventive choice that works well, although the creamy beans and wet beef are a bit much.

    Taco Bell: Doritos Locos

    Ah, yes, the Doritos Locos taco. Much ink has been shed over such a flagrantly ridiculous taco concoction, but seeing as it’s a ground beef taco menu option, it is imperative we push forward. Salty, dry and dusty from the Doritos flavorings, the basic taco isn’t altogether awful. It’s not very great, either. Call me when they offer a Cool Ranch option, or start sticking the Doritos Locos into a Double Decker.

    Full Tray of Del Taco Tacos

    Del Taco’s ground beef taco options are expansive, running the gamut from ‘classic’ to ‘deluxe’ and even ‘Macho’ (more on that in a moment). Unfortunately, none of them are very good. Of all the chains we tried, Del Taco was perhaps the most disappointing; especially considering it’s a local Southern California success story.

    Del Taco: Soft Taco

    Del Taco’s classic soft taco is a no-frills affair, with a few wide shreds of pale lettuce and a mound of cold shredded cheddar. Wrapped in a cold flour tortilla, it’s hard to see what makes this taco so popular. Man cannot survive on low-grade cheese alone.

    Del Taco: Hard Shell Taco

    The classic hard shell taco suffers the same internal fate as the soft, but with a dry, supremely corn-y outer shell. It’s the sort of thing that reminds you of those round, off-brand tortilla chips you might have encountered as a kid. The mushy, boring beef inside certainly backs up the ‘bad nachos’ theme.

    Del Taco: Macho Taco

    The Macho Taco is pure quantity over quality. As you can see, it’s as big as my entire hand (for reference, I’m 6’2”, and my hand is 8” from fingertip to wrist). If you want 2/3rds of a foot of dry corn shell, two cups of orange cheese and wet newspaper masquerading as beef, this is the taco for you!

    Jack in the Box: Tacos

    A bit of urban legend surrounds the Jack in the Box tacos, the only recognizably Mexican item on their menu board. Are they actually made of beef, or is it some version of seasoned soy product? According to the ingredients list, the tacos do at least contain beef, although soy is a major player as well. Regardless, the thin fried tacos come two to a package, packing in limp lettuce and a weak, grayish beef/soy mixture. Frankly, if a majority of your customers can’t tell if what you’re serving is beef, that’s not a good sign.

    Qdoba Soft Taco

    By now you’re certainly familiar with the conveyer belt fast-casual Mexican styles popularized by Chipotle. Well, there are plenty of Qdobas out in the world too, and they’re bold enough to provide a strikingly similar concept while still making seasoned ground beef an option. And even though they don't fit the mold of the other tacos on this list, the fact that they include ground beef as an option is reason enough to include them.

    Technically, you’d have to ask for this as a taco version (it only appears on the menu as a burrito possibility), but that’s no great shakes.

    Qdoba Hard Shell Taco

    On the soft shelled version, the tortilla is thick but never really warms up, leaving a chewy, sometimes rubbery taco on your hands. The thin hard-shelled corn variety is much better, with just the right crunch to combat the beef and sour cream. While the rest of the toppings are still pretty sparse, there’s plenty of cheese to go around as well.

    Green Burrito: Hard Shell Taco

    Green Burrito: Hard Shell Taco

    Green Burrito is the little fast food chain that could. Despite being forever linked to the Carl’s Jr. / Hardee’s burger chain, Green Burrito certainly makes an attempt at providing enjoyable Tex-Mex fare.

    The classic hard-shelled taco is a thick, warm, crunchy affair. The corn shell almost tastes more like masa-fried sope or gordita, but with a fast-food bent. It’s probably the only way to keep the taco together, considering the beef has some real greasiness to it.

    Green Burrito Soft Taco

    If you find yourself unable to handle the thicker crunch of the traditional hard-shelled taco, you can specifically request an off-menu soft version. It comes with the same low-grade commercial blend of cheddar and Jack cheese, but the oily beef quickly undermines the tortilla. If this is your ground beef taco of choice, be sure to ask for a fork.