This year at Comic-Con, Taco Bell bested every other brand and handily swaggered off with the Best Activation crown with its futuristic pop-up in San Diego.
For the 25th anniversary of Demolition Man, TBell brought out the big guns and recreated the upscale restaurant from the iconic Sylvester Stallone movie.
Two things you should know before we continue:
- I had never watched Demolition Man until this week.
- I was raised on a steady diet of Taco Bell bean burritos.
So when I heard the news that Taco Bell would be in San Diego, I was inordinately excited... but maybe for the wrong reasons. Then I watched Demolition Man and truly understood the fuss.
For those who have never pondered the mystery of the three seashells, Demolition Man is a 1993 movie set in 1996 in which Sylvester Stallone plays a hot-tempered cop in Los Angeles hunting down notorious madman Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes. After some trickery, both men are arrested -- only that doesn't mean the same thing in 1996 as it does now. Prisoners are cryogenically frozen and their minds "rehabilitated" while they sleep.
Jump to 2032, and the convict Simon Phoenix has escaped! The only logical way to catch him is thaw out his old buddy John Spartan.
Both men are understandably confused about a lot of things in 2032, like why it's now called San Angeles or how going to leaving your home in Los Angeles means driving by the San Diego Convention Center five minutes later. (But neither seems to have an issue with the fact that at one point Simon references Rambo, which means Sylvester Stallone the actor existed in the same timeline as John Spartan in 1996 and yet no one seems perturbed that Stallone's doppelgänger is a no-bullshit cop. I obviously still have questions.)
The point of that recap is to get you to the good part! Which is that in 2032 all restaurants are Taco Bell. All. Of. Them.
I immediately wanted to see this, and I got to witness it tonight at Comic-Con of all places. That's fitting, since the restaurant in Demolition Man is logistically likely to be near the Convention Center -- unless Sandra Bullock drove in a mega loop back to LA. (I told you I have questions.)
When you first enter the experience, you get your hand stamped (biochipped, in DemoMan vernacular) and once inside the restaurant you're greeted by a bar on the left (with free Baja Blasts on entry) and merchandise on the right. The bar features four drinks: The San Angeles and Mellow Greetings are non-alcoholic. The Mistress of the Malaproper, Cocteau Cocktail and Teddy Bear are 21-and-up.
We were served a four-course meal of delicious bites, and while the first two courses were a bit avant-garde, the third was a fantastic bowl of nacho fries and the final dessert was light and fluffy.
Course 1: Joy-Joy Hors D'Oeuvre
That's right, the iconic Demolition Man dish leads off your meal! We were told staff worked very hard to recreate the dish, which is a row of "masa geometrics" with (left to right, top to bottom) mushrooms, spicy guacamole, black beans, corn, corn with a corn paste, and tomato aspic. To the right is a ball of what tasted like elote (and was just as delicious).
Course 2: Crunchwrap Supreme Leader
A "cheese & masa polygon" with tomato aspic, sour cream spheres (more like dollops really), nacho cheese crunch and simply "green." I think you eat it like a taco? Sure, you eat crunchwraps flat, but this was easier to fold up like an extra-greasy taco. I love the crispy cheese interior, and I thought the rest of my party did too when they described it as "burnt nacho cheese you made in the microwave."
Plot twist: they did not like it. But I loved it.
Course 3: Franchise Freedom Fries
If the first two courses were weirdly experimental, this one was the easiest to dig into: spicy fries with cotija cheese and nacho cheese for dipping. And if that sounds good, you're in luck! You can order the suspiciously similar Nacho Fries at TBell now for a limited time.
Course 4: Cinnamon Helix Confection
"Oxygenated twists" (really the classic TBell cinnamon twists) with some berry sugar sprinkled on top and underneath a "caramel and flan variation." It was more like a marshmallow cream with caramel swirls, but whatever it was I finished all of it.
The entire experience was so immersive I nearly forgot I was still in the 20-teens not 2032. From the hosts, valets and waiters all dressed in period-perfect pieces to the fluorescent artwork on the walls, the pop-up was the most fun I've had all week. (Yes, I know it's only day one!)
Check out the gallery below for more peeks into what the *ultimate Taco Bell* was like!
: Comic-Con is no longer about just the panels (or the cosplay), it's also about the "activations."
: The Walking Dead, Star Trek Discovery, Preacher and more will be taking over Comic-Con Friday.