Del Taco, the friend-zone Mexican fast-food restaurant

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J. Wohletz
The Del Taco CrunchTada pizza.
It had been a few years since I'd cheated on Taco Bell with Del Taco -- and even then, I'd smuggled in Taco Bell sauce packets to use on my Del Taco food. It's not that I thought Del Taco was that inferior to the Bell; I'd just somehow fallen into treating it as the backup guy, the permanently friend-zoned spot that never gets a chance to be my number-one taco squeeze. Could Del Taco ever escape that friend zone? When I heard about the new, kickass dollar menu and something called a CrunchTada Pizza, I decided it was time to give Del Taco another twirl. Besides, I was hungry -- and I realized the Del Taco at 14400 East Colfax Avenue in Aurora was closer than the nearest Taco Bell.

See also: Ten Mexican fast-food guilty pleasures

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J. Wohletz
The strangely delicious taco al carbon.
Del Taco started out like so many fast-food companies -- in California, in the 1960s. The first store was built in 1964 by Ed Hackbarth and David Jameson, who soon opened two more stores and added partner Dick Naugle. The Del Taco sun logo was created in 1967, by which point the chain was shining over much of southern California. By 1981 Del Taco had 250 locations, and many of them would soon be open 24 hours. The 1990s saw massive expansion and a $14 million redesign, followed by a bankruptcy claim in 1993 (the company's public reasons included high lease payments on unprofitable stores). Despite the setbacks Del Taco survived, and in 2008 the company opened its 500th location.

This particular location looked like a piñata had thrown up on the walls: Red, yellow and green confetti graphics provided the background for tri-colored furniture. But something smelled really provocative, like cinnamon and sugar, and the staff was unusually friendly while I took my sweet time checking out the dollar menu and the new items. "The Beef CrunchTada Pizza includes slow-cooked beans, seasoned beef, nacho cheese, taco sauce, freshly-grated cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes and cilantro on top of the thick, crunchy corn shell, and the CrunchTada Tostada adds slow-cooked beans, taco sauce, crisp lettuce and freshly-grated cheddar cheese," the announcement had promised. "These fresh ingredients combined with the crunchy shell results in a one-of-a-kind auditory and taste experience."

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J. Wohletz
Beans with green chile -- a fine combo.
Taste AND sound? I ordered one of each, plus a regular beef taco, two bean burritos (one with red and one with green sauce), two of the tacos al carbon with pulled pork, and a mini strawberry shake; that tempting aroma of hot cinnamon forced me to order the caramel cheesecake bites, too.

The dollar menu also has classic favorites like regular or chipotle beef tacos, bean or rice and cheese burritos, grilled chicken tacos, cheese quesadillas, strawberry lemonade and sweet tea. I almost never wake up in time for normal breakfast hours, but the "Buck & Under Breakfast" menu has some tasties on it, too, including a bacon breakfast burrito, hash brown sticks, iced java and a mini bacon quesadilla. I may have to dig my corpse up early one of these days just to try the bacon.

But in the meantime, I had a feast coming -- for under $20, thanks to the dollar menu. As I waited for my number to be called, I contemplated Del Taco's signature sauce packs. There was mild, Del Inferno and Del Scorcho -- Taco Bell translation is mild, hot and fire -- and as I had no Taco Bell sauce on me for this meal (I forgot to raid the "random condiment" Ziploc bag in the crisper drawer in my refrigerator), I was resigned to eating Del Taco with its own sauces, which are definitely inferior to Taco Bell's. The tomato is there, the mild heat is there, but the sauces are missing that special something that makes Taco Bell's sauces addictive to the point of madness. The secret ingredient could be oxycontin or it could be vinegar--nobody knows for sure.


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48 comments
gymalien
gymalien

9 Small Soft Taco's with Extra Lettuce and a sh!t Load of hot sauce please! Taco Tuesday rules.

Brian Stout
Brian Stout

Fuck yes. Hand grated cheese makes a huge difference

Davina van Buren
Davina van Buren

I went there once and literally spit the food out of my mouth it was so gross.

Jezery DeHynton
Jezery DeHynton

Their called "human Interest" stories. Every newspaper and news agency, except Fox, has them, because people like to just read about general stuff sometimes, instead of all the horror and war in the world. And I, for one, am glad they do it.

Lori Mills
Lori Mills

Best... when you order from Del Taco, ask for green sauce instead of red. There is no charge for the swap and the taste is amazing.

Donna Neville
Donna Neville

Yuk...I hate Del Taco, it makes me throw up in my mouth! hahaha

Steven M Palmer
Steven M Palmer

Indeed. They ran a story about the best rolling papers (really?), a 10 year old piece on meth and now this challenge to find the worst "Mexican" (used very lightly) food available.

David Spencer
David Spencer

Fiesta Hour AND Taco Tuesdays on my break between classes. Can't beat that.

Michelle Beren
Michelle Beren

Taco Bell I'd no where near as good as it was in the 80's. del taco is ok I suppose but La Casa Del Rey is the place to be!!!

Chelsea West
Chelsea West

We live in a great city full of wonderful mexican food joints. Why would anyone want to eat at either of these trash establishments?

peachmahoney
peachmahoney

many an LA club-kid day hangover was saved by Del Taco nacho fries and chicken soft tacos. 

Mike Martin
Mike Martin

always have, Naugles was even better

Jezery DeHynton
Jezery DeHynton

There is still a Del-Taco around? I go to Curtis Park Creamery or it's no where. Love them for so many reason.

Kip Reed
Kip Reed

I'd trade California a few sonics for a few del tacos

GFTW
GFTW

Del Taco is gross.

Russell Ray
Russell Ray

Man... this is like choosing a Republican or Democratic President... they both suck.

Ellen Kessler
Ellen Kessler

Neither. Love Tarasco on south Federal though!

John Pinnick
John Pinnick

We live in Colorado. We have no need for these places you speak of. We have authentic-Mex, as well as Mex-hybrids all over the state.

Ricky Shine
Ricky Shine

dude taco bell is nasty, del taco is atleast edible and doesn't give me a f-in hangover lol.

Patrick O'Reilly
Patrick O'Reilly

Stopped going to Del Taco over a year ago because they can't keep the place clean (mainly the one on Union/Lakewood, the others I've seen are hit or miss). Gross. Taco Bell has been otherwise decent/steady (I probably hit it once every three weeks).

Brian Shurette
Brian Shurette

Of course not. Taco Bell is #4 of the seven wonders of the world.

Lesley Lelly DeKay
Lesley Lelly DeKay

Although I prefer Del Taco, it really must be a slow week if this is considered something worthwhile to write about...

Blayne McMillan
Blayne McMillan

Absolutely. Del Taco beans are vegan. Plus putting some french fries inside a bean burrito is practically the only way to make either place tolerable.

gymalien
gymalien

@Peace Will Win 9 Small Soft Taco's with Extra Lettuce and an sh!t load of mild sauce please!!

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