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Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa Is Getting Wilder

Plus, the party returns to NYC’s Four Seasons space

Photo: Taco Bell/Facebook

The Naked Chicken Chalupa
How quickly does Taco Bell up its stunt-food marketing game? Just days after the official launch of its “Naked Chicken Chalupa” — aka a piece of fried chicken molded into the shape of a taco shell and stuffed with Chalupa fillings like lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and avocado ranch sauce — BrandEating reports the chain is already testing a spinoff version. Behold the ~Wild~ Naked Chicken Chalupa, which simply substitutes the item’s “mild” avocado sauce with the brand’s “Spicy Wild” hot sauce. The spicy version is currently being tested in Kansas City, MO, and is almost certainly the precursor to a nationwide rollout.

Taco Bell has proven deft at the never-ending game of generating buzz for weird food: The Naked Chicken Chalupa was first tested back in September 2015, with the chain announcing its nationwide launch in August 2016 — a full five months before the product would officially hit menus. That growing buzz helped the item garner some legitimate reviews from restaurant critics, with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer admitting his own complacency in the brand-grown excitement: “I was actually looking forward to January 26 and showed up early at the Taco Bell,” he writes, before officially calling the item a “winner.”

An Asheville expansion
Chef Katie Button, who’s received national attention for her Asheville, North Carolina restaurant Cúrate, has announced she’ll expand the Spanish destination into an adjacent space. Cúrate Tapas Bar will feature a new charcuterie bar, additional seating, and a renewed focus on Spanish vermouth when it opens in March of this year. “We focus a lot on what the product is, where it comes from, and then we prepare it pretty simply,” Button said of her cooking philosophy during an interview with Eater in 2014. “But it ends up seeming impressive just by the quality and the care that is taken in procuring it.”

Party time (again) at the Four Seasons
Since its shutter last July, all eyes have been on the NYC space formerly known as the Four Seasons. (For the uninitiated: The Four Seasons plans to reopen in a new space a few blocks away later this year; its former space will soon be home to the hotly anticipated project known as the Landmark Rooms, spearheaded by the NYC restaurateurs behind Major Food Group.) And over the weekend, there were signs of life in the new space in the form of its first party, thrown for Phyllis Lambert, who Eater NY calls “the primary critic of potential renovations.” The name and space may change, but the social scene at the Seasons, it appears, will remain the same.

Refills, banned
While several American cities have toyed with instituting taxes on soda, France has gone one step further: According to a new regulation announced on Friday, restaurants, including fast-food chains, are now banned from offering refills of soda or any other drinks “with added sugars or artificial sweeteners.” The effort is designed to combat the obesity rate in France, which currently stands at 15.3 percent. As the New York Times reports, by contrast, 36.5 percent of American adults are obese.

VIDEO INTERLUDE: Grant Achatz and the team at his constantly rotating Chicago restaurant Next have taken the “mannequin challenge” to the next level. Case in point: the trailer for Next’s Ancient Rome-themed menu, featuring cascading wine waterfalls, copious laurels, and a whole pig about to become the Holofernes to a chef-Judith, among other hedonistic visuals. Reservations for Next’s Ancient Rome menu available now; watch the video below:

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