Saturday, August 25, 2007

Appleway Conoco Taco Time

Appleway Conoco Taco Time
1650 W. Appleway
Coeur d'Alene

I’ve been taken task a time or two recently for including a few fast food joints in my spectrum of reviews. I’ve been told it’s not kosher to pick on the fine folks who make their living at these places, and that I’m not bringing anything to light that everyone doesn’t already know. We’ve all experienced a Big Mac, so why do a review of Micky D’s? Okay, even I might find it hard to glean some entertainment value from a visit to the golden arches, but I like a good challenge, so you never know.

However, I’ve also been told that it’s a good thing for me to cover places that your average working person can actually afford, and since I’m certainly not made of money, I include myself in that category. Basically, I’ll write about any place I find interesting, from grocery store delis to fine French bistros. Granted, a quick jaunt through the Taco Time drive-thru is not going to provide one with an exquisite gourmet experience, but it will provide a hollow form of temporary satisfaction without totally emptying the pocketbook.

When I was just a wee tater tot, a trip to Taco Time was kind of an exciting thing. It was then located at 7th and Sherman in Coeur d'Alene, in the oddly shaped building which now houses another taco joint, and I'm pretty sure it was probably the only Mexican place in town at the time. The big deal was to sit in the upstairs dining area (I vaguely remember it to be the smoking section at one point) and eat huge amounts of Cinnamon Crustos. Over time, the upstairs area became less and less accessible due to the bad kids who found great fun in throwing random bits of food over the edge and snickering uncontrollably (Who, me? Certainly not.)

After Taco Time relocated in the mid-eighties to the trendier location at Silver Lake Mall the magic sort of ended. The chaotic food court simply did not have the same charm that the downtown place had. I've never been a big fan of hanging out at the mall, so Taco Time basically dropped off my radar for quite a number of years. Thankfully, the food at Senor Froggy was nearly identical so the Time wasn't really missed.

Then, not too long ago I noticed the big Taco Time signs decorating the outside of the Concoco at the corner of Appleway and Ramsey. I was delighted to discover they had a drive-thru set up. What a wonderful world of possibilities this opened up! I always tell everyone how much I dislike greasy fast food, and I do generally try to avoid it, but sometimes I'm just tired and lazy and don't feel like getting all gussied up for a trip into the store or restaurant. I truly can't stomach many of the drive-thru food options offered in the area (and I'm getting a bit burnt out on Subway), so I was excited there was another option, somewhere that might offer something semi-fresh and semi-healthy. For those of you who might prefer inside dining, I did notice a handful of tables, but the ambience is obviously nonexistent, the vibe is pure Conoco convenience mart - fluorescent lights and Country Radio.

"Thankyouforchoosingapplewaytacotimehowcanihelpyou?" squawked the drive-thru girl immediately when I pulled up. "Uh, just a minute" I said. I gazed over the menu, giving serious consideration to sensible options like rice burritos on whole wheat tortillas or maybe a salad. However, freshness and health went out the window in favor of the nostalgia of a classic Crisp Meat Burrito and a gloppy Saturday Nacho special. Oh, the decadence! The girl at the window was an absolute delight, smiling and polite and asking about my hot sauce preference as if it were a window to my soul. Good customer service is so rare these days that it can take me quite by surprise, especially at a fast food joint.

I got home and dove in. My crisp meat burrito was pretty good, but not as good as I remembered, even dipped in plenty of that 1000-island-esque sauce. The operative word should be “crisp” and this rather floppy, soggy roll-up struggled to fit that description. The nachos had me totally thrown off at first, because I swear Taco Time always had used real cheese in the past. These were covered in that same "Jalapeno cheese" sauce they serve at places like Taco Bell. "How terrible" I thought at first, until I realized that I actually do have an unexplainable fondness for slimy fake cheese sauce.

The main problem with the nachos is that they were quite cold and became soggy after re-nuking them. Nothing terribly original here, just some clumpy refried beans, a tease of taco meat, chopped tomatoes and onions, sour cream, and certainly not enough chips. The toppings to chips ratio was like 2:1, making it necessary to use a fork, since the weight and wetness of everything had rendered what little chips were there totally useless. C'mon kids: throw in some extra chips, they can’t be that expensive.

Overall, I'm happy to have Taco Time in the mix of drive-thru possibilities. Their food can be a little hit-or-miss, but they do have some creative healthy-ish options on the menu (which I'm getting next time - I swear). Surely the Baja Fish Taco is less artery-clogging than the traditional ground beef variety, all stuffed with cabbage and fresh tomato salsa and served with a wedge of lime. The veggie burrito comes in a wheat tortilla and even includes sunflower seeds, and the grilled Chicken Fiesta Salad is piled high with black beans and sweet corn. Now, please pass the deep-fried Cinnamon Crustos...

No comments: