Recipe Review

100% American: How the Crispy Taco Was Invented

published Aug 22, 2011
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(Image credit: Nick Evans)

Even growing up in Southern California, as a child the only tacos I ate were made of seasoned ground beef, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese in a crisp, yellow, U-shaped shell. When I was finally introduced to the soft, vegetable-less, cheese-free taco truck version, I realized the tacos I grew up eating were not Mexican at all. But where did the American taco originate? And what’s with the crispy shell?

The SF Weekly talked to two taco experts to find out the origins of the “anglo taco.” Although there are a couple restaurants in Texas that could lay claim to inventing the crispy taco, it was Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell, who made them popular. He started the chain in Southern California, inspired by the fast food of McDonald’s, which was founded around the same time.

Bell, in search of the taco version of the McDonald’s hamburger, invented the preformed taco shell. It was so popular, Tex-Mex restaurants began frying their own taco shells, clipping tortillas to a bent coffee can and frying them in oil. And from there, the crispy yellow shell swept the nation.

Read more: Where Did Crispy Tacos Come From? at the SF Weekly

Were “anglo tacos” the tacos you grew up with?