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Taco Bell's identity crisis: Can the chain compete with Chipotle and still serve drunk food?

Taco Bell's identity crisis: Can the chain compete with Chipotle and still serve drunk food?

Taco Bell, Cantina Bowl, upscale menu
Lorena Garcia , chef, Taco Bell.jpg
News_Taco Bell exterior night

Congratulations, the fast food joint to hit after a night at the bars is soon to be the newest upscale restaurant in town.

Taco Bell is known for not only its super-cheap late-night fare (they've even dubbed it "fourth meal"), but also for the famous lawsuit filed against the chain alleging that their meat contains a whole lot of mystery. But now the fast-food restaurant is aiming for a new rep.

On Wednesday Taco Bell announced plans to roll out a new menu created by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia for its nearly 5,600 U.S. restaurants.  

Garcia, who has appeared on NBC's Today and The Biggest Loser, started working with Taco Bell in the fall of 2010 to help the chain turn their food into "gourmet Mexican."

"She brought a lot of new thinking, a lot of fresh approaches to our ingredients that change the flavor profile of the brand," said Taco Bell executive Brian Niccol.

With the introduction of the Cantina Burrito Bowl and Cantina Burrito, Taco Bell is trying to venture onto the turf of casual-dinning chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba Mexican Grown, which are known for higher-quality ingredients. Taco Bell says the goal is to draw new customers and give regular customers more choices.

Black beans, cilantro rice, citrus-and herb-marinated chicken and cilantro dressing will be apart of the new, nicer transformation. The additions are going nationwide July 5 and will be pricier than most of the items on the current menu. The newcomers will sell for nearly $5 apiece, but will be a lot bigger than the chain's regular burritos.

The new image doesn't exactly correspond with Taco Bell's latest menu success. In March, Taco Bell introduced Doritos Locos Tacos, with shells made out of Nacho Cheese Doritos.

The chain sold 100 million tacos in the first 10 weeks alone, it's most popular product launch of all time. Now new flavors of Doritos Locos are planned including by-popular-demand Cool Ranch.