Sorry, But This Midwestern Taco Chain Is Better Than Taco Bell

It even (maybe) invented Taco Tuesday.

Taco John's fast food restaurant exterior

Adobe Stock/Allrecipes

Trust me, I understand as well as anyone that Taco Bell is more than a fast food restaurant;  It’s a lifestyle. I’ve been bombarded with catchy ad campaigns my entire life, made many a “run for the border,” often thought “outside the bun,” and muttered to myself in the chihuahua’s voice “yo quiero Taco Bell.” I can sing the “Enchirito Ballad” while waiting in line at the Taco Bell Cantina to ask for an extra shot of tequila in my frozen Baja Blast.

But here’s the thing: If you want a fast, Americanized taco (or other Mexican-adjacent concoction deliciously cobbled together with the same five core ingredients), most people don’t have much of a choice. There are literally thousands of Taco Bells from border to border and coast to coast, and unless you live near a Del Taco or want a taco from Burger King or Jack in the Box (and you don’t) the Bell is your only option.

 Unless you live near a Taco John’s.

What Is Taco John's Fast Food Restaurant?

What started as a taco stand in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1968, has grown into a franchise of 380-plus locations in 22 states, mostly centered in the country’s heartland. And for us lucky Midwesterners, Taco John’s is not only an alternative to the Big Bell—in many ways, it’s an upgrade.

What Makes Taco John's So Good?

That’s right: At the risk of sounding Doritos loco, I’m saying that Taco John’s is better than Taco Bell. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Potato Olés: Wait, shouldn’t that be Potatoes Olé? Whatever the correct pluralization, you’ll never need to know the singular because it’s impossible to stop popping these iconic, golden-brown beauties. The secret to these crispy spud coins is the zesty seasoning, which makes them a treat in themselves, or perfect for smothering in nacho cheese or dunking into a cup of guac or salsa. Plus, these taters are utility players, adding crunch and substance to items up and down the menu, from the Spicy Chorizo Breakfast Burrito with jalapenos, eggs, and spicy salsa, to the legendary Meat & Potato Burrito with beef, nacho cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes.
  2. Taco John’s Invented Taco Tuesday: The best holiday ever—because it comes every week and involves tacos—was actually invented by Taco John’s. Well, maybe. The history of Taco Tuesday is a little hazy and somewhat contested. But Taco John’s does own the trademark, so there’s that.
  3. Better Tacos than The Bell: Once we’ve established that a true taco is crunchy (and that sprinkling Cool Ranch Doritos dust on the shell is cheating), Taco John’s takes the prize here. For one, they fry their shells fresh every day to ensure a crunch and not some stale or soggy dud. Second, they put the taco sauce on for you, so you don’t have to twist, tear, and ultimately bite those pesky packets. 
  4. Better desserts: Is this my revenge for Taco Bell’s discontinuation of the Choco Taco? No comment. But because Taco John’s Mexican Donut Bites (rolled in cinnamon and drizzled with cream cheese icing) and Taco Bell’s Cinnabon Delights (with icing in the middle) essentially cancel each other out, the Taco John’s Churro beats a Taco Bell Cinnamon Twist any day of the week.
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