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Taco Bell 2005–2011


jhlurie
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The thought of eating at Taco Bell makes me scared. I can't even remember the last time I bought a bag of Doritos. I used to really like the Cool Ranch flavor, too.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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As a Mexican I despise Taco Bell for a variety of reasons.

Despite popular belief, Tex-Mex is not a Texan fusion or interpretation of Mexican cuisine... Diana Kennedy coined the term to explain why "Mexican" restaurants north of the border serve Chips & Salsa, Cheese covered Combination Plates etc., she happened to be living in New York at the time & restaurants that served this type of food often had Texan & Southwestern names & design themes... but they never referred to themselves as Tex-Mex. The menus, the style of cooking & plating the food had nothing to do with Texas.. it was invented by two California chains Taco Bell (founded by Glen Bell in South L.A. suburbs) and El Torito (founded as a Tiki bar by Eddie J. Cano in the San Fernando Valley). At this time in California there was a strong culture of segregation (L.A. enforced segregation through city ordinances in the 1920's & 1930's)... during the 1950's & 1960's when Faux Mexican restaurants became popular in the sub-urbs of Southern California restaurants in those communities typically had signs that read "No Hobos. No Dogs. No Mexicans"

At that time Anglo society held a popular notion that Mexicans did not follow sanitary practices (Newspaper pundits & Filmmakers often - usually with Klan ties - on occassion created Fox News type insinuative infomedia that suggested people died or got very sick from eating Mexican food from Mom & Pop shops). Glen Bell was among those that promoted the idea, to his own profit, that "industrialized" Mexican food was more sanitary than what Mom & Pop restaurants offered up.

I was bused out to High School in the sub-urbs and was actually excited when I saw that there was a Taco Bell a block away from my school... having seen so many commercials and never been inside one... the first time I tried it I thought... how the fk can anyone like this sht? A few months later, the local white girl I was dating invited me to her house for dinner and her mom thought it would be cute to have a "Taco Night"... she bought packaged "Taco Shells", cooked up Ground Beef with "Taco Seasoning"... had the full on spread with shredded iceberg, tasteless tomatos, black olives, bottled hot sauce etc., and I thought omg people actually eat this crap at home?

That was one of the pivotal experiences in getting me interested in gastronomic culture... I ended up finding a proper Taqueria not far from the school and evangelized dozens of valley friends.

Now stripping away the history & baggage that Taco Bell represents for Mexican food enthusiasts... if you take the time to taste the food everything tastes like preservatives, the ingredients are all crap (how much beans are really in their "beans", is their "cheese" even made from milk?, 36% beef.. really?) Is the American palette so fked up by processed food & fast food chains that it is numb to the off putting flavors?

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EatNopales - I live of course in a city blessed with taquerias, taco trucks and other wonderful and inexpensive glimpses into Mexican cuisine. Taco Bell still seems to thrive here- though now with a conjoined fast food twin Pizza Hut (!?!) I think that one needs to see Taco Bell as any other cookie cutter fast food mega chain with a style of food unto itself. There are many people whose palate considers this decent, good, or even a "treat". It is along the lines of not holding out a McDonald's burger as an example of a classic American burger. You can only imagine how I cringe every time I see a Wienerschnitzel that specializes in hot dogs! I think the chains have a history together. I just smile and shake my head.

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Heidi... I understand what you are saying.. I don't mean to berate... just wanting to share my particular experience of initially being excited to try it, very disappointed with my first taste... now as my palette has developed I've tried Taco Bell... it has plenty of off putting flavors...

I will be the first to admit I do eat Fast Food from time to time... I do trade convenience for quality at times... and whether it be McDonalds, JIB, Carl's Jr... when I taste the food its got bad flavors.. recently I ordered the Churros at JIB and from the first bite they had that chemical flavor you find in canned frosting, and the oil was a bit stale. Even though I will eat fast food it doesn't cancel out the fact that it does taste bad... if you are on the road & listening to the radio... it seems to matter less, but all the fast food joints are pretty much crap, no?

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I have no illusions that Tex-Mex is actually Mexican. It's no more Mexican than spaghetti and meatballs is Italian. But I loves me some chips and salsa. And a chicken enchilada with cheese melted ontop.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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it was invented by two California chains Taco Bell (founded by Glen Bell in South L.A. suburbs) and El Torito (founded as a Tiki bar by Eddie J. Cano in the San Fernando Valley). At this time in California there was a strong culture of segregation (L.A. enforced segregation through city ordinances in the 1920's & 1930's)... during the 1950's & 1960's when Faux Mexican restaurants became popular in the sub-urbs of Southern California restaurants in those communities typically had signs that read "No Hobos. No Dogs. No Mexicans"

I grew up in LA and never saw one of those signs. Sure there was prejudice but I never saw signs like that.

Eddie Cano had relatives across the street from us and near his second El Torito. Since he had a business degree from USC, I'll bet El Chollo had a much bigger influence in his style than any food or culture. He was in the business of selling drinks.

Toluca Lake was a gold mine then. He had waitresses/actresses in short skirts serving drinks from 5pm (when the studios let out) until late at night. He was a man with lots of charm and charisma. When I was about 10 or 12 he gave me a ride to his Encino restaurant in his new XKE Jaguar. The East section of the Ventura Freeway had just opened and I got my first chance to feel a car at over 125mph.

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it was invented by two California chains Taco Bell (founded by Glen Bell in South L.A. suburbs) and El Torito (founded as a Tiki bar by Eddie J. Cano in the San Fernando Valley). At this time in California there was a strong culture of segregation (L.A. enforced segregation through city ordinances in the 1920's & 1930's)... during the 1950's & 1960's when Faux Mexican restaurants became popular in the sub-urbs of Southern California restaurants in those communities typically had signs that read "No Hobos. No Dogs. No Mexicans"

I grew up in LA and never saw one of those signs. Sure there was prejudice but I never saw signs like that.

Eddie Cano had relatives across the street from us and near his second El Torito. Since he had a business degree from USC, I'll bet El Chollo had a much bigger influence in his style than any food or culture. He was in the business of selling drinks.

Toluca Lake was a gold mine then. He had waitresses/actresses in short skirts serving drinks from 5pm (when the studios let out) until late at night. He was a man with lots of charm and charisma. When I was about 10 or 12 he gave me a ride to his Encino restaurant in his new XKE Jaguar. The East section of the Ventura Freeway had just opened and I got my first chance to feel a car at over 125mph.

Thank you for your response.

With regards to "No Dogs, No Mexicans" signs... my grandfather came as a migrant worker during the 1920's and throughout the next 20 years, he personally saw them throughout rural California & Oregon. In fact, he told my dad the first time he encountered Burritos (which were and mostly are still unknown throughout much of Mexico) was when he picked Oranges in Orange County... they couldn't find any Cafe that would allow them to eat dinner, but there was a family from Sonora who would wrap stews with/without beans inside these strange wheat tortillas into a very transportable package that resembles a mule pack (hence the name). As for more academic resource... just go to Amazon.com and search for "No Dogs. No Mexicans" you will find dozens of scholarly works on the subject.

As to the role of El Cholo in the development of Tex-Mex / Mexicanesque cuisine... it seems that it played very little role. Frank Berumen, a Harvard PhD, is the primary researcher on Mexicans in Hollywood.. and his research brought him to research El Cholo as a Hollywood institution. As you might know, after Prohibition, much of the Hollywood & L.A. elite turned Tijuana into its boozing playground. In fact, the same families that developed L.A., founded LA Times, the eugenics society that eventually became the Cal Tech endowment etc., bought up much of the land of Rancho Tijuana and developed it into 1920's Tijuana.

El Cholo Spanish Cafe was founded as place where the Hollywood elite could indulge in the cuisine they had come to love in Tijuana. The name was actually very telling... the word Cholo (derived from Xoloscuintle the hairless, skinny, black dogs prized by the Aztecs) was the Spanish derogatory term for Native Americans - it is still very commonly used as such in South America - and then there is Spanish cafe. At that time many of Hollywood's biggest stars (Ramon Novarro et al) were born in Mexico but there was a lot of pressure to invent Spanish births or recent Spanish ancestry... and to downplay any Greaser ancestry (American slang for Mexican).

El Cholo's menu for the first 30 years of is existence was essentially inherited from the Tijuana steakhouses of the 1920's. They were the first to introduce the Ceasar Salad to L.A. (invented at Ceasar's in Tijuana), the house specialty was the Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon served with Baked Potato, you could also order Paella, Ropa Vieja served with Spanish rice, Shrimp in Garlic Mojo served with Spanish rice... a common appetizer was the Queso Fundido served with Flour tortillas. Unfortunately, there isn't any surviving copies of the complete early menus at El Cholo... but that should give us an idea of what their food was all about.

It wasn't until the 1960's with the growing popularity of Mexican food, particularly among the hippies & hipsters, that El Cholo dropped "Spanish" from the name & began to "Mexicanize" its offering... which was clearly more influenced by the cuisine being popularized by El Torito (and its cognates) than what was going on in Mexico.

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Thank you for your response.

With regards to "No Dogs, No Mexicans" signs... my grandfather came as a migrant worker during the 1920's and throughout the next 20 years, he personally saw them throughout rural California & Oregon.

That is very believable.

In fact, he told my dad the first time he encountered Burritos (which were and mostly are still unknown throughout much of Mexico) was when he picked Oranges in Orange County... they couldn't find any Cafe that would allow them to eat dinner, but there was a family from Sonora who would wrap stews with/without beans inside these strange wheat tortillas into a very transportable package that resembles a mule pack (hence the name). As for more academic resource... just go to Amazon.com and search for "No Dogs. No Mexicans" you will find dozens of scholarly works on the subject.

Don't be hating my "wheat tortillas", For many years I visited southern Baja with wheat flour. The women in the fish camps were so grateful to have something different they would make me the finest meal one could imagine, in return. She made the tortillas on hot rocks, beach side. A Harvard PhD can't give me that experience.

As to the role of El Cholo in the development of Tex-Mex / Mexicanesque cuisine... it seems that it played very little role. Frank Berumen, a Harvard PhD, is the primary researcher on Mexicans in Hollywood.. and his research brought him to research El Cholo as a Hollywood institution. As you might know, after Prohibition, much of the Hollywood & L.A. elite turned Tijuana into its boozing playground.

Don't you mean during prohibition?

In fact, the same families that developed L.A., founded LA Times, the eugenics society that eventually became the Cal Tech endowment etc., bought up much of the land of Rancho Tijuana and developed it into 1920's Tijuana.

Are you trying to convince me that Mexicans had influence in the development of California?

El Cholo Spanish Cafe was founded as place where the Hollywood elite could indulge in the cuisine they had come to love in Tijuana.

I don't quite buy that. It was out of their driving radius. It was a place to have similar fun experiences after a football game.

The name was actually very telling... the word Cholo (derived from Xoloscuintle the hairless, skinny, black dogs prized by the Aztecs) was the Spanish derogatory term for Native Americans

Cracker Barrel has also done well.

- it is still very commonly used as such in South America - and then there is Spanish cafe. At that time many of Hollywood's biggest stars (Ramon Novarro et al) were born in Mexico but there was a lot of pressure to invent Spanish births or recent Spanish ancestry... and to downplay any Greaser ancestry (American slang for Mexican).

Do you know how to tell the difference between Spanish and Mexican?...drum roll... Your daughter is engaged to a Spaniard. I had many friends who went through that.

El Cholo's menu for the first 30 years of is existence was essentially inherited from the Tijuana steakhouses of the 1920's. They were the first to introduce the Ceasar Salad to L.A. (invented at Ceasar's in Tijuana), the house specialty was the Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon served with Baked Potato, you could also order Paella, Ropa Vieja served with Spanish rice, Shrimp in Garlic Mojo served with Spanish rice... a common appetizer was the Queso Fundido served with Flour tortillas. Unfortunately, there isn't any surviving copies of the complete early menus at El Cholo... but that should give us an idea of what their food was all about.

Have you been to El Cholo's? Bacon wrapped filet was 60's.

It wasn't until the 1960's with the growing popularity of Mexican food, particularly among the hippies & hipsters,

that El Cholo dropped "Spanish" from the name & began to "Mexicanize" its offering... which was clearly more influenced by the cuisine being popularized by El Torito (and its cognates) than what was going on in Mexico.

At the same time in Mexico Carlos and (name any name) were expanding American/Mexican food with huge bars and dance floors. My basic point is that drink revenues have played a bigger part in the view of Mexican food than what has been put before the public.

I find the term Mexican food as offensive as American food. They both accent mediocrity.

Edited by StanSherman (log)
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I haven't eaten there in a good decade, after I left my cubicle hell job and my friend/boss could no longer drag me there DESPITE THE FACT THAT TWO QUITE GOOD HOLE IN THE WALL MEXICAN RESTAURANTS WERE RIGHT BEHIND IT!!

Sorry, had to get that out, LOL.

I never liked it, and I do like the occasional fast food (except in'n out and Tacco Hell) and I'm surprised that this place is still here, as there must be a good 10 or more mexican restaurants around within 5 min by car. But I guess many think that it's actually Mexican food (sorry Mexico...) and go there because it's quick and they don't have to understand or speak a tiny minimum of Spanish :cool:

I simply find it so bland, that I could only enjoy it with a good load of hot sauce that wasn't even hot in my book. Just bland, soupy and boring compared to what I can get right behind it.

I'm surprised to read that it's hard to find Mexican restaurants in some areas of the country, there's certainly no shortage here in California - where Mexicans will be the majority soon I guess, which might explain it.

I'm not that much into Mexican food, but if I get the craving I want something authentic and good, not some industrial plastic version of what somebody decided IS Mexican food and pays millions on convincing us that it's actually true.

(I'm glad that stupid toy rat dog is no longer in the ads, but I wonder, where did he end up??? :laugh: )

Even places like High Tech Burrito are ten times better than anything they make at T'Hell

IMO at least.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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  • 4 months later...

Taco Bell is test marketing a new item in my area. It's called the Locos Taco and is being promoted in conjunction with Frito-Lay's Dorito's Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chip brand.

Here's a picture of part of the wrapper for the taco:

LocosTaco2.jpg

It's a regular Taco Bell taco except that instead of the normal corn tortilla shell, it's a Dorito's Nacho Cheese corn tortilla shell. The shell is orange-ish in color and is dusted with the Dorito's Nacho Cheese powder.

I was questioning the addition of the paper holder/sleeve for the taco (not very eco-friendly to add yet more wrapping to throw away) but it turns out that it's needed for a couple of reasons. First there's the Nacho Cheese orange powder to contend with. The paper holder/sleeve prevents you from ending up with orange-dusted fingers while eating the taco. And, sadly, the other reason is that the Nacho Cheese taco shell doesn't hold up for very long with the moist contents of the taco filling. The taco quickly splits into a soggy mess if not consumed quickly. The paper holder/sleeve helps contain the contents of the split taco. Have your "spork" ready to eat what's left inside the paper holder/sleeve.

How does it taste? It tastes okay, actually. It's Nacho Cheese Doritos with Taco Bell taco filling. What's not to like? :raz:

I think it will be a hit with the teen male market that Taco Bell targets as well as with the "It's 3am and I need something to eat" crowd. :wink:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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You know, Taco Bell is just not the same to me sinced I watched "The Wonderful Whites of West Virginia." If you haven't seen it, you must. "What do ya mean ya don't have fajitas? WTF? I want me some macaroni and cheese, then."

Seriously, though. I usually only eat there when my son is done with a wrestling match. He's on a chipotle kick lately and likes the volcano stuff. I've given up on getting anything there that doesn't have the flavor wrung out of it. I got a taco salad there last fall and doctored it with at least ten packets of hot sauce and it still tasted bland. That said, it's not any better or worse than the local Tex-Mex restaurants that I can't stand either. I grew up with real mexican food and it's tough to take a poor imitation.

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I don't think Taco Bell is imitating Mexican food at all: after all, I'm told the TBs in Mexico City specifically push the product as American food. They simply took the basic ideas of "taco" and "burrito" and then figured out how many different permutations of the same fifteen ingredients they can contort into the formula. I'm still waiting for the triple-decker hardshell-taco-in-a-softshell-taco-in-a-chalupa. Hell, go for the gold and and make the Turducken of fast foods and wrap THAT in a "gordita" shell! Pure awesome. Why is this not done yet, TB?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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First time DH and I ever ate Taco Bell food was in Balboa Park in San Diego in 1984. We'd never even eaten Mexican food at the time and we had the Taco Salads being on a somewhat restricted eating regime. They were enormous, and little like today's standardized output. We enjoyed them immensely.

That was then...and this is now.

We still eat at Taco Bell's on the way to Utah each year. Taco salads. Nothing to talk about, but we do get to sit down somewhere else than in the van and we've not been poisoned yet. And they are near the freeway in our mad dash to Moab.

I have to ask tho...what on earth are those horrible little pink strips that come with the salads?

And if you think Taco Bells are dreadful in the USA, you should try them in Ontario. :raz:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I don't think Taco Bell is imitating Mexican food at all: after all, I'm told the TBs in Mexico City specifically push the product as American food.

They were in Mexico City from I think '92 to '97, then reopened with a single restaurant in Monterrey (my hometown) in '08 only to close again a year later. I wasn't aware of them the first time around but my impression for the second round was that they were hoping to cater to USA business travelers by placing the restaurant on the road to the airport.

I might be misremembering but I think one of the financial magazines rated opening those restaurants in Mexico one of the 101 dumbest business decisions of all time.

EDIT: Anyway, they're not in Mexico anymore.

Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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