For example, TheStreet recently dispatched Keris Alison Lahiff to a New York City Taco Bell where she -- no joke -- ordered and tried "one of everything" including the oft-advertised waffle taco:
For those keeping tabs, I consumed a total 2,305 calories and 141.5g of fat in one sitting. Spare me your judgement; my 8-hour resulting nausea was punishment enough.
Sounds like fun, but it's no joke for investors. Consider something else Keris pointed out in her story:
... sales (at McDonalds) between (6:00am and) 10:30am comprise 20% of total revenue ... the burger giant holds a 31% share of a robust $5-billion on-the-go breakfast market.
That explains why the space has become so crowded. It's not just McDonalds, Starbucks and Taco Bell, but the donut shops enter the mix as well. From Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN) to the westward moving chain Canadians go nuts over -- Tim Hortons (THI).
As much as I love watching chains battle -- and have come to think of them as less evil than I did back in the day -- there's nothing like a quality local business. Not only are they distinct to a particular location, but they bring character it's difficult for national shops to duplicate. Starbucks has probably done the best job of creating worthy environments, but even they can't come close to the look and feel of a solid, well-placed and well-run local shop.
The best ones produce menu items that look just as over the top as Taco Bell's waffle taco, but -- relatively speaking -- provide a better culinary experience. I tend to shun fast food because it almost never fails that I feel like crap after eating it. When you order what amounts to gluttonous food porn at a strong local restaurant, there's at least the chance that's not going to happen.
Not a failsafe obviously, but if you do your research (Yelp (YELP) is best for this -- hands down) you can easily pick the diamonds from the heartburn-inducing rough.
So, with that in mind and without any further adieu, crank it, yank it and rip the knob off ...
For the record, the folks at C&M Cafe in the Culver City section of Los Angeles had no idea I was coming in. They have no idea who I am. I've been to this place several times after a Twitter friend Tweeted images of the breakfast sandwich I'm about to show you. But I never ordered this particular item. I guess I was scared.
But I shouldn't have been ...
The little red symbol doesn't mean heart healthy; it stands for "house favorite."
And I gotta tell you, this is a solid sandwich. Sounds sort of disgusting. To some it might even look that way. But I can say -- after having consumed the concoction -- that this sandwich doesn't weigh you down. And it tastes darn good.
On a previous visit, I overheard the owner of C&M order from one of her distributors. That intelligence reveals that she uses quality ingredients in her food. So she's probably not cutting the corners Taco Bell (also know as "Taco Hell") and other fast food establishments are notorious for cutting.
Anyway ... enough talk ... action. Displaying food porn the way it should be displayed ... from every angle:
More goodness after the click to Page Three ...
Instinct prompted me to pick this sandwich up with my hands. But that's a bad move. The frosting from the cinnamon bun makes a serious mess. Your best choice -- manipulate the ingredient layers with a fork, as I did here, exposing the piece of art in all its finished glory:
Next a fantastic bite with intermingling of just the proper amount of each part of the whole. Every ingredient plays a role and plays it well:
A look at the second half of the sandwich -- unmolested:
And the aerial view:
It's probably impossible, but if a chain could mass produce this -- exactly as is -- they would win the breakfast wars. Hands down.
UPDATED: Late Saturday afternoon, Taco Bell responded via its Twitter (TWTR) account:
We'll let you know if anything transpires ...
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.