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Superb Food At El Taco

HoundDogz Jan 23, 2011 04:55 PM

You might have seen the thread I started on longing for old school Taco Bell. If you did not read it I can summarize by saying that Taco Bell's formula for their taco meat was way better in the '70s and '80s than it is now. They changed it and it leaves me feeling that Taco Bell isn't very good now. So I do research on Taco Bell and read that the guy who started Taco Bell also started El Taco, a chain of taco joints in So Cal, Los Angeles area. In my quest for classic Taco Bell I was hoping that El Taco would taste like old classic Taco Bell. Did it? Well read the next paragraph.

Answer is no. The taco tasted nothing like old classic Taco Bell. On it's own it's a decent taco but I was not so great, I mean it was good but not great. Either it's not like classic Taco Bell because over the years the formula was changed and it's not like the original or El Taco tacos were never like the original Taco Bell to start even though the founder of El Taco founded Taco Bell too. But wait there is saving grace! Read on to the next paragraph.

The chicken enchilada's are superb. They are to put it bluntly beyond good. They are great and beyond that. It's hard to describe but they are to die for. I kept on thinking about these enchiladas after I finished and was driving home. My wife had to have an ear full about the enchiladas because I would not stop talking. The good thing is she loved them too so she did not mind hearing me rant and rave about them. We tried the beef too and the beef enchilada was also fabulous. It was different though and I don't mean only because of the choice of meat but the sauce. The chicken is in a light red sauce and the beef a heavier red sauce. Both I do recommend to you but for me if I had to pick one it's the chicken all the way. Next time I go there I will try the ground beef enchilada. The one I had was solid beef, you know like chunks of beef but the next one will be the ground beef. I will also once again get the chicken enchilada. I do intend on trying the tacquitos because some people behind out table were raving on about the tacquitos and how great they are. The reason I passed up on them is because I frequent Pepe's mexican food in Alhambra and they make great tacquitos so I figured why not eat something else at El Taco so rather than tacquitos we had the enchiladas. Since the people on the table behind ours raved about the tacquitos I will next time try them.

Bottom line is, don't expect El Taco to be like vintage Taco Bell even though the founder of Taco Bell and El Taco are the same but expect great food. It's not inexpensive but it's not ridiculously expensive either. I will say the food is restaurant quality not fast food quality so the added expense is well justified. If only now I could find a place that has a taco that taste just like classic Taco Bell from the '70s and '80s. I doubt I'll ever find such a joint with such tacos and I can't seem to replicate them in my home kitchen so unless Taco Bell or the parent company Pepsi decides to go back to the old formula for the taco meat or unless I buy a Dolorean and turn it into a time machine and go back to 1985 and get some tacos at Taco Bell I don't think I'll ever taste a good Taco Bell taco again. But this is about El Taco not Taco Bell. One last thing I give it four out of five not five stars because I did not try a lot on the menu but if I try more items and they live up to what I believe they are then I'll edit this and give it five. Also the taco although good is not like classic Taco Bell and classic Taco Bell is the gold standard for fast food tacos. Other than that go to El Taco and enjoy it's superb!!!

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El Taco
7665 Firestone Blvd, Downey, CA 90241

  1. b
    Burger Boy Jan 23, 2011 05:21 PM

    Do they have a bun taco, like the Bell Beefer with Cheese? Please let us know.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Burger Boy
      HoundDogz Jan 23, 2011 06:00 PM

      Burger Boy, I don't think so. Here is their menu. When you go there the menu looks bigger though but I don't recall that item -

      http://eltacoofcalifornia.com/eltacom...

      -----
      Burger Boy
      1650 S State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92806

      1. re: HoundDogz
        b
        Burger Boy Jan 23, 2011 06:07 PM

        Looks like they might have it, their Sloppy Joe sounds like it...... Sloppy Joe- Warm Bun filled with Taco-style Ground Beef with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, red chili sauce or thousand island or ranch dressing

        1. re: Burger Boy
          HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 06:44 AM

          Burger Boy, I don't know where you reside but if you do live within a reasonable driving distance you should go and try it out. If you do try it out please report back with your findings. I drove about 15 minutes via street and freeway just to go there since I am in a quest for the original Taco Bell flavor. Sadly the meat as I stated before although good not really tasting like Taco Bell. Although the taco meat is not the same as Taco Bell classic from the '70s and '80s I must say that I am going to be a return customer just based on the enchiladas. I don't think I'll go there all the time, i.e, once a week or more because it's at least 15 mins away, not just a drive down the road like most places around that I go to but I'll go maybe once a month or twice maybe just for the enchiladas.

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          Burger Boy
          1650 S State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92806

          1. re: HoundDogz
            b
            Burger Boy Jan 24, 2011 07:29 AM

            I live near Glendale and I will make the trip to check it out. I drove to Arturo's for a puffy taco and Portillo's for a Chicago dog. I love a good road trip.

            1. re: Burger Boy
              HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 08:16 AM

              Me too, I'm willing to drive for a good meal. Heck I drive 25 minutes to go to Gomez's Snappy Taco in West Covina! I like it. Not like old Taco Bell but taste great. Then again I go to church around the corner from Snappy so it's not like I drove there just for tacos, I go to church then eat tacos!

              Please let us know how you like it.

              1. re: HoundDogz
                b
                Burger Boy Jan 24, 2011 02:29 PM

                What is the address?

    2. Peripatetic Jan 24, 2011 08:10 AM

      HoundDogz, have you tried Taco Lita in Arcadia? Taco Lita seems very close to what I remember Taco Bell to be like in the late 1980's, for tacos at least.

      You may also find this recent thread of interest:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757945

      12 Replies
      1. re: Peripatetic
        HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 08:13 AM

        Peripatetic, no, never tried Taco Lita but I am open to suggestions. I think I'll go out there and give it a try per your suggestion. You might have made my quest for old Taco Bell a reality with this one. Thanks much for the suggestion and link. I can't make it there now but soon maybe a week or so I will. Thanks for the link I'll give it a read!

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        Taco Lita
        120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

        1. re: HoundDogz
          HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 08:26 AM

          Peripatetic, I just saw a video on this place and it looks great. It's a must go. I love these little hidden gems like this. Thanks for the tip!

          The owner or co-owner whatever he is, is the son of the previous owners. He comes across as a great guy.

          Watch the video -

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8anmjV...

          1. re: HoundDogz
            Peripatetic Jan 24, 2011 08:50 AM

            Hi HoundDogz, I came across that video when this thread appeared last month:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/755923

            It convinced me I should run, not walk, and try the place!

            You should definitely try Taco Treat, too. The deep bean and cheese burrito is very good. It's a short drive away.

            1. re: Peripatetic
              HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 09:11 AM

              Just read the thread you linked to. Thanks for the link. Heck if they are so near each other I will definately go to both while I am out there. I can't wait!

          2. re: HoundDogz
            r
            reality check Jan 24, 2011 09:26 AM

            I like Taco Lita a lot. But, I don't remember the 70's & 80's Taco Bell, ever tasting like Taco Lita. But, judge for yourself.

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            Taco Lita
            120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

            1. re: reality check
              Peripatetic Jan 24, 2011 09:49 AM

              In other words, both Taco Lita and 1980's Taco Bell were good, but different? Or Taco Lita is better than 1980's Taco Bell? Just trying to understand the comment.

              1. re: Peripatetic
                r
                reality check Jan 24, 2011 09:58 AM

                WOW, you really missed the point.

                You are trying to find something that tastes like Taco Bell from the 70's and 80's. Somebody suggested you go to Taco Lita.

                Taco Lita doesn't taste like Taco Bell from 70's and 80's.

                It is good for what it is, Americanized tacos, but when I go, I don't think it reminds me of when Taco Bell was in the mission style buildings.

                -----
                Taco Lita
                120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                1. re: reality check
                  Peripatetic Jan 24, 2011 11:37 AM

                  I haven't understood what you said well enough to miss the point! ;)

                  I understand:

                  1) You like Taco Lita. A lot.

                  2) You don't think Taco Lita tastes like Taco Bell in the 70's and 80's.

                  What is unclear is:

                  3) whether you thought Taco Bell in the 70's and 80's WAS good, but just not like Taco Lita.

                  or

                  4) whether you thought Taco Bell WAS NOT good in the 70's and 80's, and therefore is not like Taco Lita.

                  Your response above leaves room for either interpretation.

                  1. re: Peripatetic
                    r
                    reality check Jan 24, 2011 11:52 AM

                    The point of this topic, which you seemed to miss, is finding a place where the Tacos taste like the Taco Bell version of the 70's and 80's.

                    Somebody else mentioned Taco Lita.

                    I mentioned that I didn't think Taco Lita tasted anything like the Taco Bell of the 70's and 80's.

                    Whether Taco Bell of the 70's and 80's tasted good or not, is irrelevant.

                    The point is Taco Lita is good for what it is, Americanized tacos. I don't think it tastes like Taco Bell of the 70's and 80's.

                    -----
                    Taco Lita
                    120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                    1. re: reality check
                      Peripatetic Jan 24, 2011 12:07 PM

                      I get that you don't think that Taco Lita tastes like Taco Bell in the 70's and 80's. I asked in what way(s) you think it's different, but don't appear to be getting very far. :)

                2. re: Peripatetic
                  HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 09:58 AM

                  Well I am definately going to go to Taco Lita. If it taste like Taco Bell from the '80s then I found my oasis in the desert of taco joints but if it is not like Taco Bell from the '80s that's okay too because seems like people love Taco Lita and if it's a great taco whether it is like Taco Bell of the '80s or not that's fine. Just an added bonus if it taste like it. Whatever it is it's great I'm sure.

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                  Taco Lita
                  120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                  1. re: HoundDogz
                    WildSwede Jan 27, 2011 01:23 PM

                    I had fun reading that exchange - thanks! Now I am going to put in my 2 cents:
                    I love Taco Lita and Taco Bell. Taco Lita definitely does not taste like TB now and even more so not like TB of the 70s and 80s. I also love Taco Treat which is on Live Oak pretty much directly south of Taco Lita by a couple of miles. They are all good in their own right. Really good, I think. I would say that Taco Lita & Taco Treat are much closer to eachother than TB and TL.
                    The hot sauce at TL is more like the sauce at TB, but better. TT's homemade hot sauce in the cups kicks both their asses if you ask me. TT also does deep fried burritos which I love. I think they even do that taco on a bun.

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                    Taco Lita
                    120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

          3. HoundDogz Jan 24, 2011 01:57 PM

            Back to the original thought, El Taco tacos, I was trying to figure out what they taste like but I could not pinpoint it. Definitely not Taco Bell that's for sure but it was something. I now figured it out. It taste like the tacos at the salad/taco bar at Sizzler. You know you buy a meal and for $2.00 more or so you get the salad bar and there is a taco bar as well. It's that taco meat at Sizzler that it taste like at El Taco. Not saying that's bad but it's just okay, not special. But when I go to El Taco it will be totally chicken enchiladas for me. You can't beat those.

            1. b
              Burger Boy Jan 24, 2011 02:33 PM

              Just to stir the pot a bit, try Henry's Taco's in the Valley. Similar to El Taco and Taco Bell. There used to be an El Taco at Hollywood & Western and a Taco Bell just 1 block east. My dad always took me to El Taco.

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              Henry's Tacos
              11401 Moorpark St, North Hollywood, CA 91602

              1. HoundDogz Jan 27, 2011 05:51 AM

                Okay everyone I did make it to Taco Lita yesterday. I tried the hard shell taco. It did not taste or remind me of the greasy Taco Bell tacos of the '70s and '80s but I will tell you this that it was very good. I drove out there just for that. I would not drive out there again just for the tacos but if I was out that way in Arcadia or around that area I would definately go in and eat there. I did like it a lot.

                I do enjoy hidden gems when it comes to food and Taco Lita sure is one of those. In downtown LA I used to eat at Taco Cita. They had these ground beef tacos too that were pretty good but truly no TB of the pre-90s. It was good though at Taco Cita but not the same. I actually like Taco Lita better than Taco Cita too. But yeah anything like Taco Lita, Taco Cita, El Taco and other hidden gems of taco stands I love or any other type of food.

                By the way back in 1984 early that year I went to Arcadia High School to take my pre-SAT tests. From my understanding Taco Lita has been around since the '70s or '60s even so that Taco Lita place was there in 1984 when I took my pre-SATs. It's so near Arcaida HS that I wish I had noticed it back in 1984 and gone there. I would have found out how good it is and would have been going there ever since as long as I was in the area. How time flies. Just watch "Back to the Future" and you'll know time flies!

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                Taco Lita
                120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                1 Reply
                1. re: HoundDogz
                  r
                  reality check Jan 27, 2011 09:02 AM

                  That Taco Lita goes back to the 60's and is the only Taco Lita left, I believe they used to have about 20.

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                  Taco Lita
                  120 E Duarte Rd, Arcadia, CA 91006

                2. HoundDogz Feb 11, 2011 11:47 AM

                  Went to El Taco again yesterday and got the chicken enchiladas and the tacquitos. All very good. If you have not gone then you gotta go there.

                  1. r
                    Robinez Feb 11, 2011 12:37 PM

                    Hi,

                    I worked at Taco Bell in 1981 & 82. I was a teen and I applied for the Taco bell job instead of the other fast food places because I was addicted to Taco bell and figured this way I would at least get a discount on the food that I was invariably going to spend my paycheck on!

                    Anyway, the menu was very limited back then, just taco's, burrito's, refried beans in a cup with cheese and sauce, enchillada's, and yes, the Bell beefer. They also had a great green sauce. No soft shell taco's then either.

                    We used to cook everything from scratch except for the sauce's. The ground beef would arrive in 15lb bags and we would cook it on a flat top with 3 sides. We would add the spice mix to the beef while it was still raw and cook the meat and spices together. When the beef was cooked we would use a large dustpan like thing to gather the meat at the top of the grill and let it drain.

                    We also made our own refried beans. We had large paper sacks of pinto beans and would add it to the pressure cooker with a specific amt of water and a packet of lard. When the beans were cooked we used a reg Black and Decker drill with a long flap attatchment to mix the beans. They were so yummy!

                    I think that my taco meat taste's like the old taco bell. I buy the Taco Bell seasoning and add it to the raw meat and cook til done, then I drain the meat but, I keep a bit of the grease. The directions call for adding the spices to the meat after it is browned. I think adding it at the begining makes a difference.

                    TC, Robin

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Robinez
                      HoundDogz Feb 12, 2011 07:08 AM

                      Robinez, thank you so much for the info. I'm always interested in what former employees of Taco Bell from the golden age of Taco Bell have to say about their experiences.

                      So one question is, do you agree that the old TB taco meat from the days when you worked there taste a lot better than the meat now? I'm not sure what they are doing different now that makes it taste so much better (worse) than it did back then. Back then it was awesome in taste and texture.

                      Do you know what seasonings that they used back in the old Taco Bell days when they made the taco meat?

                      I was hoping the El Taco tacos would taste like old Taco Bell since Glenn Bell started both Taco Bell and El Taco so I thought they'd have the same old recipe but they don't taste the same. Maybe they did at one time but El Taco changed it later too. But the chicken enchiladas are the best so I'll continue going there.

                      Thanks

                      1. re: HoundDogz
                        r
                        Robinez Feb 12, 2011 02:13 PM

                        Houndogz , You're Welcome.

                        Oh I definately think the meat was better back then. As an example, In the morning before the store opened and before we started cooking the taco meat, a few folks used to heat up the flat top, grab a handfull of the meat from the bag, and proceed to make hamburgers. They used the bell beefer buns and that's what they had for breakfast. I can't imagine you could do that with the meat they use now considering all the extra ingredient's other than meat .

                        The Taco Bell seasoning that I buy in the grocery taste's pretty much the same as it did back then. To me, anyway.

                        TC, Robin

                        1. re: Robinez
                          HoundDogz Feb 13, 2011 11:28 AM

                          Robin, I'm gonna buy the Taco Bell seasoning you use that you buy at the store and when I cook it I'll do it just as you say, add it to the meat as the meat is cooking rather than wait until it's browned first as the package says. I think that would work out great as you suggested in your other post.

                          I miss the old days of Taco Bell. Now when you go there not only is the meat not as good it's kind of like a different experience that's not as fun or pleasant. It used to feel like you were walking into an independent food place but now it feels like an institution. Different feel.

                          When I used to work with a guy who worked at Taco Bell in the early '80s I should have asked him info too but that was about 8 years ago before I got on this vintage Taco Bell kick.

                          Could you tell me about the taco shells? Did you guys make them from scratch or were they pre-made already?

                          Thanks

                          1. re: HoundDogz
                            r
                            Robinez Feb 14, 2011 07:44 PM

                            HoundDogz, The tortilla's came in stacks. The corn tortilla's were put into a sleave type thing and deep fried fried for taco's. Some were put into the steamer and used for enchillada's.

                            We also cut the flour tortilla's in quarter's, fried them, sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on them and called them cinnamon crispas'.

                            I moved on, college..etc..and other fast food jobs to pay for books. But I must say, I really liked working for Taco Bell the best. They treated employee's better than any other outfit.

                            TC, Robin

                            1. re: Robinez
                              HoundDogz Feb 16, 2011 09:51 AM

                              Robinez, thanks for confirming that the shells were made fresh rather than pre-made and sent to TB. That's probably partly the reason the tacos were so good back then. Man TB was a self-sufficient fast food joint back then. Now everything is so pre-made.

                      2. re: Robinez
                        b
                        Burger Boy Feb 14, 2011 11:17 AM

                        Long live the Bell Beefer with Cheese!

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