the Cantina Bell menu) and conspicuously resembles the Burrito Bowl at Chipotle. Like Chipotle, you can have it customized however you want it, but it's not assembled in front of you in Subway fashion.
By default, it comes with all-new ingredients including citrus-herb marinated chicken, black beans, guacamole made from Hass avocados, pico de gallo, roasted corn & pepper salsa, romaine lettuce, and a creamy cilantro dressing, and a bed of cilantro rice. It's also available in a veggie configuration or with steak.
I've actually previewed and tried the Cantina Bowl twice at various Taco Bell events, but was waiting to review one from an actual Taco Bell to see if there's any difference (there isn't). It was $4.79 for the Bowl. It's $2 extra if you want it with chips, salsa, and a drink.
Since it's going to be compared to Chipotle anyway, I thought I'd do a review based on carefully thought out and completely arbitrary criteria.
The Cantina Bowl appears a bit more presentable and is assembled look a certain way to highlight the different ingredients and colors. The chicken is a bit hidden under lettuce and dressing unlike the promotional pictures where it's front and center. The last Chipotle Burrito Bowl I had was covered in lettuce and cheese; presentation didn't seem a priority in its assembly.
Heft (I was going to say "weight," but it started to feel like I was comparing people in a very superficial manner). While the Cantina Bowl is enough to make for a hearty meal, I can often do two meals with the Chipotle Burrito Bowl. I'd say 1.5 hearty meals with the Chipotle version. Of course, it does cost a buck or two more (I think about $6.50 at the time of this writing).
Value. Ostensibly Taco Bell is the better value at $4.79, but it is more of a tie for me because you get a little more food at Chipotle by default and potentially, quite a bit more as you ask for extra rice, lettuce, and what not. You can really get them to fill the bowl to the brim at Chipotle (at least you can at mine). You do get a small scoop of guac at Taco Bell and that costs extra at Chipotle so yeah, I'd say it's close.
Taco Bell's new chicken is more chicken-y than the previous spicier version. The Taco Bell seasoning flavor is replaced with a citrus, herby flavor that's pretty good. There are some grill marks, but it's the same kind you get from frozen food i.e. it was grilled at some point before being frozen. It has the same texture as frozen food chicken as well (smoother and less textured).
Chipotle chicken is seasoned closer to how Taco Bell's chicken used to be and how a lot of Mexican restaurants do it--with spice and cumin and what not. It's also good with normal chicken texture; like if you made it at home. They grill the chicken through out the day, but it's not always hot. Sometimes, it's just kinda warm while Taco Bell's chicken has always been hot.
Between the two, I give a slight nod to Chipotle. I like both of the flavors, but Chipotle's freshness takes it for me.
A wash. Lightly, seasoned black beans at both joints. Good stuff. I suppose you can choose from black beans or pintos at Chipotle though.
Taco Bell's corn salsa is mostly the flavor of roasted sweet corn. Chipotle gets a little bit spicier which I like, but might turn off those who want corn, but not the heat.
Rice. Taco Bell's is a little mushier, but more fully flavored. I found myself wishing for a bit more of it in the bowl. Chipotle's is firmer and more subtly flavored. I can get as much of it as will fit inside the bowl. I could go either way on this.
Guacamole. I've never tried guacamole at Chipotle in my bowl. I've had it with chips and it's pretty good. Chunky, like you make at home. Taco Bell's version is blender smooth with small chunks here and there. It's good as well with a strong lemon flavor (keeps it green longer).
You can get chips and guacamole at either chain, so I'll say it here: I like Taco Bell's chips better than Chipotle because they're less salty; with the coarse salt used at Chipotle, some of the chips can be really salty.
Dressing. Chipotle doesn't have dressing. They do have sour cream, cheese, and a spicy red sauce. If you like heat, you'll like the red sauce and I always add that. Taco Bell's dressing is nice; cool, creamy, and refreshing, but not overwhelming. I tried adding some hot sauce to my Cantina Bowl, but it got a little bit lost in the flavors and wasn't doing it for me on the heat front. Maybe I should have went with "Fire."
Another wash. It's pretty standard, and honestly, it's when it tastes different that you have a problem since it's a pretty simple salsa. For cilantro haters, this is where you'll find most of the cilantro (as you might notice in the picture), so you might want to get it without.
It's interesting to note, that when testing the Cantina Bowl, Taco Bell found that it did better where Chipotle already maintained a presence. I would guess because people were already used to eating a burrito in a bowl.
Overall. I like and enjoy both products, but I'll put it this way: if I'm at Chipotle, I'll get a Burrito Bowl, if I'm at Taco Bell, I'm still getting a Crunchy Taco. I love those things.
Nutritional Info - Taco Bell Cantina Bowl - Chicken (438g)
Calories - 560 (from Fat - 200)
Fat - 22g (Saturated Fat - 3.5g)
Sodium - 1520mg
Carbs - 64g (Sugar - 4g)
Protein - 26g