Fast Food Files: Del Taco
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
The road to the perfect Mexican fast-food chain is paved with a lot of bad tacos. However, in Southern California, one mega-chain rises above the rest: Del Taco.
Del Taco is an American fast food chain known for its inventive, often whimsical, Mexican-inspired menu items. Dell taco’s business model is easily summed up: Take a few basic elements of Mexican cuisine as adapted by immigrants in the United States, reduce each element to its bare minimum, and then endlessly recombine these building blocks to create a changing kaleidoscope of fast food. Thus flour tortillas, seasoned ground beef, and cheese sauce might be assorted over the years into dozens of offerings — some predictable, some seemingly absurdist — on a menu that never remains static.
Founded in California in 1962, the brand has maintained a steady presence in the American consciousness, in part because of its popular advertising campaigns— like it’s slogan the “Feed the Beast”. The first restaurant was built in 1964 by Ed Hackbarth who happens to work at the very first location located in Barstow, CA . The Del Taco sun logo was created in 1967, by which point the chain was shining over much of southern California. By 1981 Del Taco had 250 locations, and many of them would soon be open 24 hours.
Got a hankering for Mexican food? If you break for Del Taco, know that their menu items vary wildly in nutritional value and calorie counts. The ingredient lists are extensive, with many offerings containing several highly processed ingredients. As with many fast food menus, sodium counts can get out of hand. For a frame of reference, the daily recommended allotment for sodium is set at 2,300 milligrams by the American Heart Association.
If Del Taco is your top pick for fast food-style Mexican faves, then gravitate toward these menu items:
The Del Taco menu features about 11 different types of tacos with various shells and fillings. It has plenty of high-calorie options in this category as well. Reach for the simply dressed Salsa Chicken Taco and Carne Asada or Chicken Street Tacos. These picks have the most fresh vegetables, avocado, and protein for less than 200 calories and 300 milligrams sodium per serving. A single Queso Crunch Taco packs in 400 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 640 milligrams of sodium. It’s also best to avoid the flatbread tacos, those extra-thick shells stack on an additional 100–200 processed, high-carb calories. If you are trying to cut back on fat, steer clear of the ground beef and ground turkey fillings, as they're higher in fatty calories.
Since the only burger options on the main menu are the Double Del and Bacon Double Del Cheeseburgers, it might a better idea to head to the kids’ menu for a value meal. You can snag a burger, fries, and drink and keep the calories more reasonable. A standalone order of fries off the kids’ menu is the only really sensible choice at 160 calories per serving.
As far as drinks and desserts, the smartest bets are to pass on the shakes. If you can’t resist something sweet, cap off your meal with a low-calorie chocolate chip cookie or a downsized milkshake. Mini Shakes are available in Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla flavors—all weighing in between 220–250 calories per serving. Share with a friend!
While Del Taco might not quite match the global success of some its fast-food competitors, it’s pop-culture cachet and street credibility though is near untouchable. From branding coups like the “Feed the Beast” slogan, to the invention of a language of its own, the chain has captured our imagination with its sometimes bizarre antics and its munchies-friendly image. Among people who actively have an aversion to and avoid fast food, Del Taco is in many cases the one exception they’ll make. Del Taco's Grilled Chicken Soft Tacos have power like that.