McDonald's and I have a fraught relationship, bordering on the abusive. McDonald's used to be what I turned to in deep times of stress as if its limp burgers were made of pure sweet sativa, to the point that my bank once called me to make sure that my debit card hadn't been stolen as—during the depths of a bad breakup earlier this year—I had been eating McDonald's at least twice a day for a week. My sole encounter with a McRib, meanwhile, remains so distressing that people bring up the experience—which I wrote about in 2012—on a regular basis, as I have somehow managed to sear it into not only my own brain but theirs as well. It's a trauma we all share together.
And sometimes I think McDonald's is just toying with me, looking for new ways to pull me back in now that I've broken free. And not just me, with their newest product—a chorizo breakfast "burrito"—but rather scores of Texans who would normally head to their nearest taqueria for a chorizo con huevo breakfast taco, or to Whataburger for a taquito (with grilled jalapeños, obviously). I mean, you put a chorizo taco on the menu at a fast food joint and a Texan is nearly bound by law to at least give it a try. What if it's good? What if, suddenly, you maybe don't have to make the drive over to Villa Arcos and wait for an hour to get your breakfast taco fix, knowing that a consolation taco is available at McD's in a fraction of the time?
Naturally, this is madness. A good breakfast taco is always worth the wait.
The chorizo breakfast burritos (which are really taco-sized) come wrapped up in stiff flour tortillas, two for $3. This is the same price as two chorizo con huevo tacos from Brothers Taco House, or really any number of other far better options around town. Leaving aside the quality of the tortillas for a moment—because, honestly, you don't expect McD's to have good tortillas any more than you expect Canada to have good Tex-Mex—I admit that I was momentarily stunned by the way the chorizo burritos smelled. Which is to say, like real chorizo breakfast tacos. Could it be?
Unwrapping them from their plain white paper wrappers made my stomach lurch a bit in anticipation. There was that telltale orange grease dripping from one end of the burrito, the neon traffic cone color that signals chorizo's blend of spices: chile peppers, paprika, cumin, garlic, Mexican oregano. The scent of the chorizo grew stronger, that sweaty smack of ground cuminos filling my nose even as I took my first bite. And then...nothing.
Eating those first few bites of chorizo burrito was like entering a dissociative fugue state. The burrito tasted nothing like it smelled. Nothing. How can a food smell so distinctly of cumin and garlic and chile peppers and taste like Spam runoff? It was as if someone had boiled a ham in water, removed the ham, added a ton of cornstarch to thicken it up, and made that watery ham paste into sausage. The color and scent of chorizo mingling with the flavor of hot ham water paste only made the experience more disorienting. Curiously, there were tomatoes in the sausage too. Had McDonald's added tomatoes for a ruddy color in lieu of any actual spices? The presence of tomatoes could certainly account for the watery, distinctly un-chorizo-like flavor. Overall, however, it wasn't offensively terrible so much as just bafflingly bland.
So this is McDonald's attempt at appealing to the Texas breakfast taco market. This is it. Big talk and nothing to back it up. I polished off the last bite of hot ham water paste and contemplated the surprising feeling of relief that was washing over me.
I had expected to get pulled back in by the bad boy of fast food, and yet... Eating that chorizo burrito was like discovering the ex-boyfriend who treated you terribly for so many years has lost most of his hair, gained a spare tire, and is still driving the crappy old truck you thought was so cool post-college but which now, as an adult, you realize doesn't even have a current inspection sticker...and also he might be living in it. You feel a deep sense of shame for dating him in the first place, sure, but also a deeper sense of freedom. He may want you back, and he may put the saddest effort into it—just enough to make you briefly consider a pity drink with him—but he'll never make enough out of himself to deserve you.
McDonald's, you don't deserve the Texas breakfast taco market. Or me.