Taco Bell Shanghai: What an Impostor!


Taco Bell Shanghai Review is part of the TPOL in Shanghai Trip Report.

When I originally wrote the post about TBell’s opening in China, there were only two locations. Now there are multiple. I went to the one closest to Nanjing Pedestrian street, home to the still delicious Yang’s Dumplings. I couldn’t believe 1. How busy it was inside. 2. How nice it was inside. Those striking differences should have been a hint for what was to come.

I stepped up to place my order and found myself at a loss for words. The menu was completely different, and the choices looked terrible. What the hell is a crayfish burrito? How is a shrimp avocado burrito appetizing? How much worse are the Taco Bell runs after the beef bulgogi kimchi crunchy taco supreme compared to America’s nacho cheese Doritos Locos tacos supreme? All these questions went through my head.

I understand that Taco Bell wants to tailor its offerings for local tastes, but at what point is it so different that it isn’t even Taco Bell anymore?

I managed to get a few classics including a burrito supreme, a chicken soft taco, and the double decker taco. The total came out to 155RMB or $22 dollars. That’s a record even for me. I went to pay with my credit card but was rebuffed by the cashier who said they only accept cash or Chinese issued credit cards (see Without Technology TPOL’s the Creepy Old Guy in Shanghai).

Instead of waiting at the counter for my food, I was given a number and sat a table and waited. Minutes later, the moment of truth had arrived.

Before my taste buds entered what I thought would be the gates of heaven, I had to load up on the hot sauce. To my shock and dismay, the only hot sauce was sriracha. That was confusing. With no packets, I took my first bite of the burrito.

It was absolutely terrible. The tortilla was more like pita bread or pizza dough than a proper wrap. The beef had no flavor. The only recognizable taste was the sour cream.

I moved onto the standard shell beef taco and was disappointed again. The shell didn’t have the crunch.

I tried the chicken soft taco and the chicken tasted weird. The double-decker taco was the worst of all worlds: no flavor, stale shell, and doughy tortilla.

Fries were good.

I felt like I was in the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – “The food turned to ash in our mouths.” It looked like Taco Bell but it wasn’t Taco Bell.

TPOL’s TIP: Just like when I returned to Shake Shack after saying it was meh the first time, I had to try Taco Bell again to see if I had overreacted. I went to the one near the Courtyard Marriott Shanghai Central, and it was better but does not compare to home.


I recall Taco Bell’s old slogan, “make a run for the border,” something that I would have to do if I wanted real Taco Bell.

Yes, let’s taco about how gross this is.

TPOL’s TIP: There’s a Shake Shack in Shanghai now too, but I was done trying to find home while abroad. There’s a White Castle as well, but that’s gross anywhere in the world.

If you were surprised by my Taco Bell Shanghai Review, then continue reading the TPOL in Shanghai Trip Report for my next review.


  1. I have to agree. I had three standard beef tacos, and they were absolute trash.
    1, They didn’t season the beef with taco seasoning.
    2, They used cheddar cheese sauce from a jar instead of shredded cheese. Wtf?

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