Some Chronicle staffers apparently thought it would be "fun" if longtime restaurant critic Michael Bauer "climb[ed] off the pedestal of high-end dining to review Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa," which just got released at Taco Bells nationwide today. And never one to scoff at a fried chicken product (Bauer reminds us that he's an avowed fan of Popeye's), he took the challenge and headed to the Taco Bell location nearest the Chronicle's offices, Taco Bell Cantina at 3rd and Townsend.

The "chalupa" in this case is a actually more like a meatless taco, or rather a taco in which there is no meat filling, but the taco shell itself is made from a folded and fried chicken patty. It's filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and an avocado ranch sauce, and Mr. Bauer is hooked.

To wit, from the Inside Scoop blog:

On my first bite I tasted oil and wished the spicy coating had been a little crisper; on the second bite I didn’t care, and by the time I had polished it off I loved it. The tomatoes could have been a little riper, but when mixed with the hot shell, the crisp lettuce and the creamy dressing, it didn’t matter. I ordered a second one, just to be sure. Yep. I still loved it.
As I walked the mile back to the office, the buzz of the spices stayed with me almost the entire way. I’m glad the developers didn’t tone down the heat or sweeten up the ingredients to meet the lowest common denominator palate.
Hey, what’s good is good. No need to apologize.
If this chalupa had been served with a Manhattan at Comstock Saloon or an Anchor Steam beer at the nearby ballpark—even with a $10 or $12 price tag— it would be a sell out.

And there you have it...

Related: Michael Bauer Rings In 30 Years As Chronicle Critic, 5,320 Reviews Later