Where do you go when you need some Mexican food on the cheap and the quick? Do you hit up Taco Bell to gorge on the unholy delights of Doritos Locos and Quesalupas, or, if you dare, the forbidden treasure chest that is a Grande Meal? Or are you "fancy," and head to Chipotle for a burrito bigger than any sane human needs and a date with a bathroom? Maybe you hop in the car and drive around for weeks looking for a Taco Bueno, a Mexican "quick service plus" restaurant that you've probably never heard of and was just voted America's favorite Mexican chain restaurant?
The industry research group Market Force Information just released its annual quick service restaurant survey and found that Taco Bueno topped the big boys of burritos like the Bell, Chipotle, Qdoba—even Del Taco—as America's favorite. According to People, the Texas-based Tex-Mex chain has just 178 locations in seven states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Colorado. The survey polled 10,000 people across the country.
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The menu at Taco Bueno doesn't reinvent the wheel. They offer standard fare like burritos and tacos, as well as "Muchachos," which appear to be their take on a gordita, as well as some pretty legit-looking platters. Most notable is the Wholotta platter, the company's "biggest platter ever!" weighing in at nearly 2,500 calories with a Beef Chilada smothered in chili and queso, a crispy beef taco, a beef Muchacho, a side of queso in a cup made from a tortilla chip, Mexican rice, refried beans, sour cream, guacamole and chips.
Taco Bueno has been around since 1967, yet most of us have never known its Tex-Mex delights. Fans of the chain are referred to as "Buenoheads," and their numbers look poised to grow; Taco Bueno was bought by the $7 billion San Francisco investment firm TPG Growth at the end of last year. TPG Growth lists Bono as a special partner, owns Fender, and invests in everything from Airbnb to Chobani, Cirque de Soleil, Ducati, Neiman Marcus, and Petco.
And good news for the antisocial: Taco Bueno takes orders online and does two-thirds of its business through drive-thru. And for those on the prowl for late-night Mexican in the Taco Bueno region of influence in the south and west, you can score Muchachos until 1:00 AM or later.
But for the rest of us, we're in the dark until one of these supposedly magical Taco Buenos pops up in our areas. This is on you, Bono—show us what makes Taco Bueno so special.