Hats off to the marketing team at Taco Bell. Perhaps more than any other food chain, the company headquartered in my hometown of Irvine, California, has proven it can turn stunt menu items into runaway hits that stand the test of time. There’s Baja Blast, its trademarked soda long-rumored to just be a mix of Mountain Dew and Cool Blue Gatorade. And don’t forget the Doritos Locos Taco, where a Doritos chips-flavored tortilla that stains your fingertips orange stands in for a hard taco shell.
These menu items are bigger than themselves, achieving icon status or something like it in the world of fast-food fandom. Neither comes close in cultural significance to the Crunchwrap Supreme.
Introduced by Taco Bell as a limited-run special in 2005, the Crunchwrap Supreme returned as a permanent menu item the following year after becoming the chain’s “most successful product introduction ever.” It has spawned offshoots within the company over the years, including a breakfast Crunchwrap and a vegetarian version with black beans instead of ground beef. Neither hit quite like the original.
Almost two decades later, Crunchwraps are sold from some 8,000 Taco Bells worldwide. And now, from a new burrito shop in Williamsburg: Super Burrito, which started as a concessions stand on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, recently opened a second location on Bedford Avenue and offers a take on the Crunchwrap Supreme as a weekly special.
Its version, called the “Dankwrap Supreme” for obvious legal reasons, is bigger and more expensive. But is it better? I stopped by both restaurants last weekend, conveniently located a 10-minute walk from one another in Brooklyn, to find out.
Ingredients: Ground beef, nacho cheese sauce, tostada, sour cream, lettuce, tomato
Price: $6.49 before tax and tip
I grew up about a half hour from Taco Bell’s headquarters in Southern California, and have probably eaten a hundred or more Crunchwraps in my lifetime. Maybe five of those have been in New York. I’ve always felt that this city has a way of ruining fast food chains — the prices are higher, while the quality is somehow worse — and the handful of Crunchwrap Supremes I ate for this article were not spared.
The Crunchwrap I saw listed on Taco Bell’s website for $4.69 costs $6.49 in person. Online, it overflowed with ground beef and nacho cheese. In person, it was mostly shredded lettuce and out-of-season tomato. Bites of beef were sparing, but the thrill of finding one was immediate: Mixed with melted cheese, another diamond in the rough, it had the same tingling effect on the brain as biting into one city’s top smash burgers.
For the record, I fall in the camp shared by other Mexican American writers that Taco Bell is indeed Mexican food, and I generally give this restaurant chain the benefit of the doubt. But this wasn’t living más. I actually visited a second location of Taco Bell, one of its sit-down Cantinas in Bed-Stuy, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. And sadly, that one was even smaller.
Ingredients: Ground beef, tostada, sour cream, lettuce, tomato
Price: $12 before tax and tip
The Dankwrap is Super Burrito’s “most requested special,” according to the team, and has been sold on and off at its original location since January 2022. Owners Eugene Cleghorn and Sam Neely are “unabashed lovers of Taco Bell,” they say, and from a bird’s-eye view, their version appears to hit all the marks. A flour tortilla is folded over itself, then grilled shut to prevent sour cream and meat juices from leaking out.
Turn one over, and its size is impossible to ignore. The thing is huge, to the point that I’m not even sure it’s in the same league as a Crunchwrap (more on that in a minute). Inside, layers of lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and ground beef are neatly segmented in a thin tortilla that the team imports from California. The meat takes up most of the real estate, and notably, nacho cheese has been omitted from the formula.
I cut the Dankwrap in two for instructional purposes, but in doing so, realized something else: With this much going on inside, half is really all you need.
By the numbers, the Dankwrap at Super Burrito is supreme, offering what must be four times as much meat for around double the price. It could be argued that the strength of the original Crunchwrap is its smaller size, which allows one or more to be eaten in tandem with, say, a beefy five-layer burrito or a Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and I won’t disagree. The one at Super Burrito is a full-ass meal.
On two points, Taco Bell has Super Burrito beat: The taste of its ground beef, where I could find it, was unmistakable, while the nacho cheese that sent shivers down my spine was missing in the leveled-up version. When those ingredients are in harmony, it doesn’t take more than a few bites to understand why this fast-food dish has a cult following.
Still, for lovers of lettuce, tomato, ground meat, and evenly distributed fillings, Super Burrito is the way to go. Without reinventing the wheel, the restaurant solved a problem that Taco Bell probably could have addressed itself — basically, giving us the fillings we paid for. The Williamsburg restaurant may not be making the Crunchwrap I grew up with in California. But then again, neither is Taco Bell.