Aug 07, 2023

We Got A Taste Of Del Taco's New Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket And Found Tons Of Flavor

Del Taco is known for affordable, classic Mexican fast food, but one of the country's largest Mexican chains is making some big moves to introduce new flavors to its menu. It's starting with a new Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket. Mashed was invited to a launch event in Los Angeles where we got to taste the full lineup featuring Del Taco's brisket as well as some new drinks and a returning dessert favorite.

Speaking to us at the event, Del Taco's Chief Marketing Officer Tim Hackbardt said the new brisket is part of its "better Mex" program to provide "next level culinary experiences" that go beyond what people expect from fast food. The Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket is just the first in a wave of upcoming releases from Del Taco over the next year that will focus on premium fillings with big flavor profiles.

The brisket lineup will be available starting August 24 for a limited time nationwide, although participation and prices may vary by location. The three headlining items will be the Epic Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket & Bacon Burrito ($8.99), Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket Quesadilla ($6.49), and Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket & Bacon Fries ($6.99). At the center of all three is, of course, the brisket, which Del Taco says is pit-smoked for 16 hours and paired with a sweet and smoky honey-chipotle barbecue sauce. And from our first taste of the brisket, it definitely seems to live up to the "big flavor" promise.

The standout of Del Taco's three new brisket items is the Epic Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket & Bacon Burrito, which hits you with a lot of different tastes but has a nice alchemy among the ingredients. Along with the brisket and barbecue sauce, it has bacon, crinkle cut fries, shredded cheddar, and sour cream. It is a little difficult to get a sense of the brisket on its own with so much going on, but as a whole it is incredibly flavorful, with a heavy dose of smoke from the combination of the meat, chipotle pepper, and the bacon. The barbecue sauce is the dominant flavor, and it is pretty sweet, but combined with nice fatty, salty notes from the brisket and bacon, it stays on the right side of balanced.

What really makes the burrito work is actually the fries. The flavor from the other ingredients is almost too much, but the fries help keep it grounded, and their texture holds up well despite being wrapped with multiple wet ingredients.

The only kind of superfluous element feels like the sour cream. It isn't bad by any stretch, but it doesn't add much either. It seems mainly there to tame the bite of the sauce, but any flavor from it gets overwhelmed by the other ingredients. In total, this is an impressive fast food burrito that delivers on barbecue flavor and provides a pretty distinct offering from a Mexican chain.

Burgers and fries have always been one of the things that distinguishes the Del Taco menu from other Mexican restaurants, so it's nice to see another fry option here. The ingredients are the same as the burrito, sans burrito.

The fries we got went a little heavier on the sour cream and lighter on the barbecue sauce and bacon. There was a decent amount of brisket, although for the centerpiece item it would have been good to get a bit more. Even with more sour cream, the flavor was still heavy on the sweet and smoky from the barbecue sauce, but everything was dialed back a bit, with a higher ratio of fries to toppings.

What works and doesn't work with the fries is more tied to Del Taco's fries and loaded fries in general. The chain's fries are never that crispy or salty on their own, and loaded fries are destined to get soggy from the get-go. So if you want crunchy potatoes, these aren't for you. That said, eating them with a fork still works pretty well. Just like in the burrito, the milder, potato-heavy flavor of the fries is a nice contrast to the intensity of the barbecue sauce and smoky brisket. The small disappointment is the cheese, with the shredded cheddar not really melting much and only showing up on a few of the top fries.

The simplest of the Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket options is the quesadilla, but that helps it offer a more distinct flavor. The quesadilla cuts out the fries, sour cream, and bacon and pairs the brisket and barbecue sauce with melty cheddar. Compared to the burrito and fries, the quesadilla also has a smaller amount of sauce, which puts the focus squarely on the brisket itself, with the cheese standing out more as well. With that balance it's noticeably less sweet and more savory and smoky.

Although the burrito remains our favorite, dialing back the sweetness really works, as the brisket has lots of flavor on its own. The quesadilla really highlights that 16-hour smoke taste in the meat, which is also well-seasoned. The smaller amount of sauce is still powerful enough to add a nice extra dimension and sugary notes, but it feels like more of a complement to the brisket here instead of the primary flavor.

The quesadilla is also the best choice for pairing with Del Taco's hot sauces. The flavor from the burrito and fries completely overwhelms the hot sauce, although the hotter Del Inferno sauce still adds some nice heat that was mostly missing from the honey-chipotle barbecue sauce. Although the burrito gives you more barbecue flavor, the quesadilla is a real winner. It's a great alternative for someone who wants something a little more restrained and less sweet.

While the brisket is the star of Del Taco's new items, there are also Mango Pineapple Poppers, which come in two options, lemonade and Sprite. They get their name from popping boba pearls, which you might know best from bubble teas. Like the brisket options, these drinks go really big on flavor, with a heavy mango pineapple syrup taste. Based on our lemonade sample, it comes nice and fruity but might be a bit syrupy depending on your tastes. The lemonade doesn't really stand out much over the mango pineapple or add much tang, but it is still pretty refreshing. The boba poppers are a nice addition, they're also mango pineapple flavored, and they help the drink feel like the kind of unique, premium offering Del Taco is aiming for.

Also back are Del Taco's funnel cake fries ($1.99), returning after their debut over a decade ago. In our sample, they come very nicely fried, with a fluffy interior texture and light sweetness. They are a little scant on the powdered sugar, but the more mild sweetness is actually welcomed and should help them stand out from Del Taco's more heavily sugared churros.

As a start to exploring more premium products, Del Taco's Honey Chipotle BBQ Brisket is a strong effort, with tons of flavor and a unique barbecue angle. It will definitely have us watching where the chain goes from here.