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Taco Bell is trying its hand at breakfast. One of its offerings is the Johnsonville Sausage Egg Wrap, which comes in at 360 calories and 24 grams of fat. But it's only $1.79. (photo by Michael Ryan)

For most people Taco Bell can best be described as nothing more than a guilty pleasure. It has also been pegged as a late night mainstay (hence the company’s “fourth meal” ad campaign) for the drunk, stoned, and struggling dieters that have gone way off the deep end.

The idea of “the crazier the better” seems to be a good formula for the fast food industry. McDonald’s McRib, in all its pre-formed pork patty glory, has achieved a sizable cult following. The KFC Double Down, a bacon, cheese, and sauce laden sandwich which opted to use fried chicken patties instead of bread, made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Most recently, Jack in the Box’s thousand-plus calorie bacon milkshake offers up a worst of both worlds kind of indulgence. It is sometimes hard to fathom that these avant-garde offerings at one point were plants and animals of the earth.

How low can you go translates into big bucks for these mega franchises, and Taco Bell has always been on the forefront of culinary ridiculousness. Tacos and burritos have always hinted Mexican fare if not with a nudge and a wink. It is the more recent fangled creations like the XXL Chalupa, Crunch Wrap Supreme, and Beefy Cheesy Melt which throw any notion of authenticity out the drive-thru window. It is not like Taco Bell claims to be Mexican food in the same way The Olive Garden markets itself as Italian, or P.F. Chang’s is Chinese. “Make a run for the boarder” seems more like a political talking point more than an old ad campaign.

Nowadays, Taco Bell is about thinking outside the bun. Florescent red taco shells and cramming burritos full of Flaming Hot Fritos certainly follows that mantra. Odd offerings are what make it a draw as well. Some people have a sense a humor about what they eat. Being so bad, its good doesn’t only apply to MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” it also applies to that Double Decker Chalupa drenched in 15 packets of salsa verde.

Dreamed up in test kitchens, studied by countless focus groups, and heavily marketed, that brand new menu item takes a long journey before it is processed, distributed, piped into a tortilla, and packaged in a $5 box, all for customers who don’t even have to leave the confines of their car to have at it.

The latest news and subsequent challenge for Taco Bell is the decision to open its doors during the most sober meal of the day, breakfast. Aside from a breakfast sausage patty, eggs, and cheese, wrapped up and toasted in a disk like fashion, the rest of the menu is fairly lack luster. With a handful of breakfast burritos, hash browns, and cinnamon balls, pitted up against the afternoon menu, it is slim pickings for fun and funky offerings. Taco Bell has always been that lights-out closer in the bottom of the ninth of late night eating. However, leading off your day with it seems like a recipe for disaster for your afternoon.

Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, most people know what they are getting themselves into when dining at Taco Bell, or any fast food restaurant for that matter. For the rest, I suppose ignorance is bliss to a certain extent. It may be best to take indulging at Taco Bell with a grain of salt, or in the case of the Grande Skillet Burrito, 1,500 mili-grains of salt.

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.

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