Dear Taco Bell,
There are few places a part-time vegetarian of Hispanic origin can get Mexican-type food quickly. McDonald’s rolled out a chicken wrap in a tortilla, but that, of course, contained meat. Burger King, Wendy’s, and Arby’s? Not a single item that appeals to the brown in me. Now, Carl’s Jr I have to say is pretty clever with their sub-restaurant, the Green Burrito. I appreciate their effort to make a brand around ethnic food in a burger joint, but the words green and burrito just don’t go together. Jack in the Box has tried with their deep fried taco, which will do in a pinch, or if the Padres have a promotion where they’ll give taco coupons if and when they score a run.
What we’re left with is you, Taco Bell, and here in Southern California, Del Taco, which I will get to in a moment. And there’s, well, Chipotle, but everyone knows that’s not Mexican or fast food. You have to walk in, plus, no Mexican food restaurant on this planet serves burritos that huge in to-go bags covered in short stories written by George Saunders and Judd Apatow. They just don’t!
Granted what I’m talking about here is Mexican-style food. Food inspired by Mexico. Beans, rice, tortillas, cheese. If you want real Mexican food, you have to go to Mexico. You can get a fine taco at any number of authentic Mexican food stands in Southern California, but do you have the time? I certainly don’t. I’m on the road, calling on customers, and sadly, sometimes I only have time for a drive-thru. I don’t want to do it, but I have to when I’ve got twenty minutes in between clients.
And so where do I go? Where does a person of Hispanic—and note I said Hispanic—origin go? See, I’m not Mexican, or Columbian, and Costa Rican. I was born right here in the United States to parents whose parents were the real thing. It’s been washed out of me. Not all of it. But most of it. I still need my taco, but I need it fast, and with customer service. Hey, I’m American. Sue me. Oh, and I also try to eat vegetarian as often as possible because the conscious American in me tells me to go easy on the earth and vote with my checkbook. Wouldn’t that be funny, Taco Bell, if you took checks? You take American Express, which I find so deliciously ironic because my tab is usually less than five dollars, likely less than it costs you to process an AmEx charge.
So, anyway, I go to you Taco Bell, to get my ancestral food needs met, and I order a tostada. In my mind, it’s a perfect food. Beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, a swirl of hot sauce, all on a flat crispy bed. Two of them will usually fill me up for a few hours. But what to my sorpresa when I ordered one the other day in between appointments only to find a new creamy red sauce on it! I wasn’t pleased by this, mind you. I was taken aback. Why go and ruin a tradition, Taco Bell? Creamy Sriracha-like hot sauce? That’s Jack in the Box, ese. Come on.
Which leads me to Del Taco. I didn’t want to do it either. I’d avoided it for years being so loyal to “The Bell.” But I had to try it. It was the only thing I could find one day in San Bernardino. I rolled up, found the equivalent (craftily dubbed “The Crunchtada”), and ordered. I parked, opened the tray, and, ay dios mío, what a beauty. A thick shell, coarsely cut lettuce, generous bands of cheese, a substantial layer of refried beans, and a touch, just a touch, of red sauce. It was pretty good, I can’t lie. So good that I’ve been back more than a few times.
That’s right, Taco Bell, I think I’ve converted from the Bell to the Del. And not just because they have a better product, that’s just one of the reasons. The other reason is the name. It’s like Green Burrito. I realized Taco and Bell don’t go together. Del and Taco, however, do. It translates into “of the taco” and that is, in essence, what I’m about. I’m of the taco. I’m not the taco, as I mentioned earlier. I’m simply inspired by the taco. I’m taco-style, and, incidentally, I know where I need to go if I need the real thing.
San Diego CA