First the father of the Quarter-Pounder leaves this vale of tears, then the inventor of Spaghetti-os, now this: the founder of Taco Bell has died. We’re so used to the ubiquity of Taco Bell that the name long ceased to seem strange; it’s like Burger Carillon or Kentucky Fried Chicken Xylophone. Twin Citizens who were awake in the 80s recall how Taco Bell came late to the party here - we had Zantigo’s, which was much better than that chain crap! Except that it was a chain, owned by KFC. Pepsi bought it 1986. As Wikipedia sagely notes:
In many cases, the existing Zantigo assets were in better locations or in better physical condition than nearby Taco Bell locations. Thus, most Zantigo locations continued to remain in business as Taco Bells, with the nearby Taco Bell locations being closed. This led indirectly to the Taco Bell chain as a whole adopting many of the distinctive architectural details of the old Zantigo restaurant.
That’s true, at least the part about “architecturally distinctive” buildings. I can still spot a Zans from blocks away. (They looked like this.) At the time we worried about the loss of the Chilito, but Taco Bell scientists, realizing the difficulty of duplicating the item’s zesty melange of pepper, pepper, salt, meat-type substances and melted vinyl, wisely chose to keep the item around. I say this with honest respect: I loved those things, and the Taco Bell version isn’t quite the same.
Well, imagine my surprise when googling turned up . . . this. Some local restauranteurs have resurrected the Zantigo’s name and the menu. Six locations so far, and yes: they have the Chilito, in hot AND mild. I will have one this weekend and report back. Now if we could just get back Tonto’s Taco Shoppe, and its famous chunky green-chili burrito, we’d be complete. I’m sweating just thinking about it.