In the land of Western New York, a great battle is being waged over Americanized Mexican fast food. In one corner there is Taco Bell, perennial favorite around the country. In the other is Mighty Taco, a local favorite with just about as much connection to Mexico as general stability (read: none). Yet, I knew I had to try it out to see what kind of competition it is to the first love of my life.
Throughout the Buffalo area is a place called Jim’s SteakOut, which is known for its subs and tacos, but mostly for servicing drunks in need of something greasy to fill their bellies. Fortunately, there is one in East Aurora that was just waiting for the right moment to get in touch with me. The moment came recently enough, and with a few drinks in me I felt it was time to get steaked out.
The moment I heard Taco Bell was testing markets for breakfast, I began counting down the days until I could have some for myself. Of course, at the time, there was no date to count down to because of the whole test market thing. Nonetheless, a date came: March 27, 2014. And when I arrived at Taco Bell at 11:01 am I was promptly turn sent packing for being one minute past the breakfast deadline. Somewhat deterred, I returned a week later, but this time before the clock could run out on me.
The fast food restaurants of the world have taken some remarkable paths. McDonald’s and Subway have infiltrated nearly every corner of the globe. Taco Bell has brought “Mexican” food across the United States and places like In-N-Out have garnered cult followings while remaining tied down to a specific region. There is a reason that people on the East Coast have heard of In-N-Out and a reason why people in the Northeast heard of Chick-fil-a before its expansion. Likewise, there is a reason I had ever heard of TacoTime.
Once, oh so many years ago, I had myself a solo adventure in The Philippines. Among my many memories, I have never forgotten pulling into the Jollibee drive-thru window in Quezon City and ordering corned beef with rice. Surely, this wasn’t the most exciting thing on the menu, but to a Jew that had spent nearly a year in China and longed for corned beef I was amazed. Of course, this corned beef was more a remnant of the colonial days of The Philippines than of my own ancestors, but it was still an experience.
A friend of mine likes to check out McDonald’s every time he leaves the country, because he is amazed that a burger can be made the exact same the world over. I like to visit McDonald’s to see what sort of regional specialty it might have, but in the case of South Africa, there was no regional specialty to be found (come on, meerkat burger!). Instead, I found a fast food burger chain called Steers.
EDIT: This location is gone, but you can find Freebirds elsewhere, man.
Beginning in Santa Barbara back in the day, Freebirds World Burrito has recently been expanding all over the place. With a hippe/biker vibe (no, I have no idea how that came to be), Freebirds has taken Henry Ford’s assembly line to burritos, but offers more colors than just black. In fact, the options are kind of mind blowing. Multiple tortilla, meat, rice and bean choices, as well as a plethora of salsas and other add-ins.
While there is a lot of buzz in the food world today about The Oinkster‘s Burger Week (in which they do their own take on classic burgers from around the country), I just made it to The Oinkster myself for the first time last week to see about their real menu. It was my first time in Eagle Rock and was nothing short of an eye-opening experience. The Oinkster itself resides in a building that was once a typical LA-style fast food burger joint and still retains much of that charm. It calls itself a purveyor of “slow fast food” and I had been wanting to check it out for just about as long as I’ve been aware of its existence.
How many times have you sat around late at night eating either Taco Bell, Doritos or both and thought how amazing it would be to combine the two? I know I have. So when Taco Bell first started testing their new Doritos Locos in Fresno and Bakersfield last year, I was almost tempted to pay one of those cities a visit. Thankfully, I did not make the mistake of setting foot in one of those cities, and the testing was obviously a success, because at midnight this morning Taco Bell rolled out their Doritos Locos Tacos for the nation. If you’re unfamiliar with the Doritos Locos, they are essentially your regular or supreme tacos, but with a giant Nacho Cheese Dorito as the shell. Usually I can wait to try Taco Bell’s new products, but for this I had to be there right at midnight.
Chipotle is kind of the gold standard of Mexican fast food (I mean, unless we’re talking Taco Bell). You can find it pretty much anywhere, the prices are pretty good and there is no doubt that it’s fast. But it is not alone…all over there are copycats and similar joints that may or may not have existed before the rise of Chipotle. Ocho Mexican Grill in downtown LA is one of those copycats…sort of. A combination of my buddy Joel and a 50% Scoutmob discount convinced me to visit this downtown twist on Mexican fast food fare and I entered with high expectations.