Fast food pilgrims flock to the ‘KenTacoHut’

Last week, my editor told me about a combination Kentucky Fried Chicken/Taco Bell/Pizza Hut restaurant just off of I-91 in Greenfield, a favorite stop for athletic teams and their supporters on their way back to Williams. There are a few fast food restaurants in North Adams, but Williamstown proper is devoid of any franchises, save Subway. Jared’s shrinking waistband is evidence that Subway isn’t part of the greasy junk food genre, so the opportunity to pig out on some fast food was a welcome one. I had seen the place myself, but had never actually stopped there, so when the weather obliged me with a nice day for a drive I headed down to investigate this fast food Frankenstein that is known colloquially as Colonel’s Taco Hut, or just KenTacoHut.

I was speechless for a moment as I stepped up to place my order; the menu’s vast array of options was just short of paralyzing. I had resolved to take full advantage of this incredible junk food fusion, so my first choice was clear: a bucket filled with the Colonel’s finest (extra crispy, of course). A couple of buttermilk biscuits were an equally essential request, and with that I moved on to the section of the menu devoted to pizza. I decided to try the Thin ’n Crispy style, and since I often describe myself to others as a pepperoni lover, I could not turn down the Pepperoni Lover’s topping option. This left me with the mountain of choices that is the Taco Bell menu. Williamstown is truly lacking when it comes to cheap, artificial, Americanized Mexican fast food, and so I resolved to go with two personal standbys: the Double-decker taco and the beef Gordita, this time dressed with nacho cheese. To supplement this, I considered an intriguing item that I hadn’t seen before, the Enchirito.

The Enchirito’s composite of a name accurately suggests a burrito melded with the melted cheese topping of an enchilada. Inside, I was promised a scoop of beef, a scoop of beans and some onions, all topped with some kind of special sauce. I decided to ignore the skeptical expressions of my companions and give it a try, figuring that while the Enchirito did sound a little toxic, the marginal gastrointestinal damage accrued by one more helping of fast food fun wouldn’t be too noticeable in the larger culinary extravaganza that was about to begin.

In ordering, I found the service to be generally friendly, although I think that Sarah, my cashier, was stupefied by the quantity of food I was asking her to ring up. Even so, she was able to quickly pull herself together, and despite the number of items I had ordered, did not ring up any phantom tacos or mistaken pizza toppings. Sarah seemed to be a new addition to the KenTacoHut team, showing her inexperience when she couldn’t give me a description of the beguiling Enchirito, but she demonstrated her teamwork abilities by asking Billy, her supervisor, for a quick assist on the question. Billy briefly stopped his enthusiastic hollering on the subjects of “service time averages” and “friendly attitudes” to help both Sarah and I to understand the synergies of the Enchirito and also showed Sarah where to find it on her display.

Billy’s verbal encouragement of his staff showed in the rapid delivery of my order to the pick-up counter, accompanied by an innovative Cruiser Cup for my beverage. This large cup is designed with a bottom whose diameter is sufficiently small to fit in a car’s cupholder, thus ensuring that cruising in a vehicle does not prohibit a person from simultaneously consuming massive quantities of Mountain Dew Code Red or another equally outrageous soft drink.

I picked up an assortment of Hot and Fire sauces on the way to my table, and realized as I stared at the pizza, tacos and fried chicken all piled onto my overflowing tray that I had entered a fast food Xanadu with Billy playing the part of Kublai Khan. At first, I didn’t know where to begin, but my eyes kept returning to the bucket of fried chicken and I knew what I had to do. I grabbed the nearest drumstick and tore into it. As my teeth crunched through the extra crispy skin, I tasted the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, and it was no secret to anyone around me that I thought the chicken was delicious. With a cry of joy, I grabbed another piece and, more slowly this time, savored each and every juicy bite even as I felt the oily chicken rub grease all over my face.

Having temporarily satisfied my stomach’s demands for fried chicken, I turned my attentions to the Thin ’n Crispy pizza emanating tantalizing pepperoni aromas as it commanded the center of the table. The pie more than lived up to its billing, as it was covered in pepperoni, proved very thin and was as crispy as a piece of matzo. The Pizza Hut website explains that this pizza gives you “just enough crispy crust to get a mouthful of toppings in one bite,” and this is true enough. I loved the piles of pepperoni, and as fast-food pizza goes, the cheese and sauce were of a decent quality. But the crust was too thin and too crispy. I can’t imagine anyone ordering a pizza, no matter what it is named, and expecting to receive tomato sauce and melted mozzarella atop a giant circular cracker.

I rallied from this disappointment and refocused on the three taco concepts that lay before me. I decided to save the mysterious Enchirito for last and unwrapped the double-decker taco to add a blend of the Hot and Fire sauces. The double-decker is made by placing a regular beef taco in a hard shell inside a soft taco shell, with a layer of refried beans in between. It has the usual toppings of cheese, lettuce and tomato, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Next up was the Gordita, a taco with a shell of thick flatbread and the same inner composition as the double-decker save for its nacho cheese topping. I soon regretted ordering this semi-gooey, probably artificial cheese as it was half-solidified by the time I took my first bite. The unsightly cheese was visually disconcerting, and the taste didn’t refute the visual impression. Perhaps if I had eaten the Gordita earlier in my meal it might have represented itself better, but I doubt it.

At long last, I came to the box containing the Enchirito. Upon opening it, I found a standard-size burrito half submerged in a reddish sauce and topped with a moderate amount of melted cheddar cheese. I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it, but after eating the rest of the meal with my hands, I wasn’t about to start using utensils now. Dipping my fingers into the red ooze, I lifted the Enchirito up to my mouth and took a big bite. Inside, the composition overwhelmingly favored refried beans, to the extent that I couldn’t even see the promised “scoop of beef.” A few chopped onions were mixed in, but in all seriousness I couldn’t find the meat. The special Enchirito sauce tasted like a mild version of a typical barbeque sauce, and its main contribution was to make the Enchirito the messiest item I had eaten all afternoon. In most cases, you can’t go wrong with melted cheese, but the burrito was nothing special. In sum, I wasn’t smitten with the Enchirito’s minimal charms and I predict it will make a quick exit from Taco Bell’s menu.

Driving an hour to get fast food in Greenfield is perhaps oxymoronic, but the opportunity to enjoy such delicious variety under one roof made what was already a pleasant drive even more worthwhile. The prices were very low, except for the fried chicken, for which an 8-piece bucket would run you about nine dollars. Most of the value meals cost between five and six dollars, and the value is heightened if you decide to eat in the restaurant as soda refills are free.

If you want the food without the long drive, try the franchise in Bennington that, though it only fuses Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, is a bit closer to Williamstown, or the stand-alone Pizza Hut located on Route 2 just past Stop & Shop. Next time I am craving some fast food, I probably won’t venture all the way to Greenfield. But if it’s on your way, try stopping at the KenTacoHut for a wholly different kind of gastronomic variety than that found on Spring St.

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