I Ate Lunch at the Original Taco Bell

My pilgrimage to Tito's Tacos, the LA institution that's considered a prelude to Taco Bell, was a surprising experience filled with hard-shelled tacos.

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Jul 29 2017, 9:00pm

Growing up in Los Angeles, I remember occasionally hearing my teen peers utter the words "Tito's Tacos." Being the stereotypical everything sucks suburban teen that I was, I scoffed at anything that was liked by humans my age. I didn't care to know more about it. If only I did the research, I would have known the truth: that Tito's Tacos is a Los Angeles institution. The eatery has been around since 1959, serving Mexican inspired fast food, the type now emulated by places like Taco Bell. Of course, Tito's Tacos doesn't just serve tacos, but also burritos, enchiladas, tamales, and tostadas. Now that I'm older—and supposedly wiser—I've learned to start giving in to the hype. Sometimes, hype is good. Hype got me into some of my favorite things like emojis, and Nicki Minaj. Maybe it was time to give in to the hype of Tito's Tacos.

titos-exterior-sign

All photos by Megan Koester.

Unlike the fast food chains that have emulated it, there is only one Tito's Tacos and it's in Culver City, Los Angeles. Once I arrived, I noticed a small line of people outside and decided to order my food inside, where there was less of a line. Unlike commercial chains like Taco Bell or Del Taco, there was no colorful description of anything on the straightforward menu. No adjectives like "supreme," or "crunchtastic," to describe what I was about to be eating. The menu simply stated my options: "Tito's Taco," "Tito's Taco with cheese," "meat and bean burrito," "meat burrito," and there wasn't any clarification as to what the "meat" was. I ordered two of the renowned tacos while my friend got an enchilada with a side of rice and beans. I also got a side of guacamole after being told I couldn't add guacamole directly to my taco.

titos-sign

Once my friend and I placed our order, we waited for a total of two minutes for all of our food that was served to us in a big, cardboard box.

titos-interior-sign

The food and its packaging looked more like something I'd eat in a school cafeteria than at a Taco Bell, but that's not to say it looked bad. The taco shells were visibly handmade and deep-fried. No cookie-cutter shells here. Inside the shell, I discovered meat, shredded lettuce, and cheddar cheese. The guacamole and salsa were more liquid than actual food, but I splattered both on my taco anyway and it was decent. I'd be lying if I said it was the best taco I ever had.

titos-crispy-tacos

Eating it made me wish I was drunk so I could enjoy it more. This is perfect drunk food. But unlike Taco Bell, the latest Tito's Tacos stays open is 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. There is no way one could make this their fourth meal of the evening.

titos-plate

Now that I've finally experienced Tito's Tacos, I officially feel like my duty as an Angelino (we call ourselves that, right?) is complete. I was underwhelmed by the food itself, yet somehow I didn't leave disappointed. I still find myself having an odd appreciation for this place. Not many fast food places can make junk food feel special. As I left, I noticed an even longer line started to form outside. Perhaps it's the nostalgia that keeps people coming back; the desire to preserve something timeless in a city that's constantly renovating. If so, that definitely makes Tito's Tacos worth the hype.

chile-relleno-titos

This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in September 2015.

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