Taco Bell Shanghai: Western Food in an Eastern Environment

I’m going to be honest with you. After Taco Bell announced it was opening a second location in Shanghai, this time conveniently located in Lujiazui just steps away from everyone’s favorite Shanghai landmark, the Pearl Tower, I expected a copy of the greasy on-the-go American original. But despite expectations, Taco Bell in Shanghai is nothing like its American equivalent.

Although true to its brand name, offering classics like tacos and quesadillas, the differences between the Chinese and American menus are striking. Firstly, the Shanghai branch offers a very limited menu selection: apart from the usual tacos and burritos, they seem to lack the American Taco Bell favorites such as the Waffle Taco (why is that even a thing?!) and the Doritos Locos Tacos (amen). However, perhaps to make up for the limited selection, Shanghai’s Taco Bell takes the cake (or should I say taco?) with their alcoholic selection of margaritas and mojitos.

Surprisingly, in Shanghai, the fast-food chain has more of a social sit-down setting, apparently inspired by the brand’s “cantina” restaurants in the U.S., which have open kitchens, urban designs, and booze on the menu. Food is served in plastic baskets, not greasy wrappers. From the strategically dimmed lights to the table placement and surfboards hanging from the ceiling, it’s become a hot-spot for weary expats and tourists tired of attempting to decode Chinese restaurant menus, with their limited travel guides and “Useful Phrases” handbooks.

Although Mexican-inspired food has never taken off in China, Taco Bell seems to be doing pretty well in Shanghai, our very own NYUSH students largely contributing to its prosperity. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an “upscale” fast food experience on a college student’s budget? Come to think of it, for a restaurant that offers beer on the tap (you heard me) and free refills the only thing that would make Taco Bell better would be the availability of a restroom.

This article was written by Sara Gradinarska. Please send an email to [email protected] to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Taco Bell

Author: Sara Gradinarska

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