Last visit: November 2013 (Keller)
NE Tarrant locations: Watauga, Colleyville, Keller, Haltom City, Euless + 1 in Roanoke
Total locations: 52 (49 in Texas + 3 in Oklahoma); 3 are opening soon.
January 2013 update: Time to run over to our favorite regional fast food taco chain: Taco Casa. They've experienced considerable growth since I wrote the below nearly 5 years ago. And they continue to grow, with 3 more on the way to make it 55. Their business model seems to stick mainly to smaller rural areas that are close to the city. Even today, they've pretty much have ignored the Dallas market, preferring to stay north, west and around Ft. Worth. Though recently they've made quite a push in East Texas as well.
Mr. RJG likes his tacos. We mentioned in an earlier post that while Italian and Thai probably constitute my favorite restaurant experiences, taco places represent my favorite fast food excursion. And I'll boldly admit that it isn't even the authentic Mexican taco / taqueria stand that has been in vogue these last 20 years (though we like those too!). No, I like the good old fashioned American styled, crunchy taco. Taco Bell may be its iconic image, and the only true national chain (and, even worse, publicly traded company). However, it is close to dead last in the taste category. Fortunately most taco chains are of the regional variety. And I've been to many of them in the great States of America.
I've liked tacos since I was a little kid. There are few pleasures in life better than walking off with a sack of tacos, knowing the great taste sensation that comes with the meeting of spiced mush meat, lettuce, cheese, crispy shell and taco sauce (for some reason, I don't like tomatoes in my tacos). If the bag doesn't have a hole at the bottom with orange grease, then you may have gone to the wrong place...
Taco Casa is a classic regional chain. They are based in Gainesville, TX, in far north Texas at the border of Oklahoma. They finally put a website up in the last month, and from that I learned they have 33 locations, 32 of which are in Texas. I suppose it's strange then, that I first discovered Taco Casa in Durant, their solo Oklahoma location. In the early 1990s, my Dad got the bright idea of journeying up to Durant, which is located just over the border from Texas, about once a month, to buy cigarettes from the Indian reservations. Gas was cheaper then, of course, and he apparently saved a bundle (God knows he smoked like a chimney). I'd tag along on occasion, especially on lazy Saturday mornings (there was no Mrs. RJG back then). My deal in the bargain? He had to pay for my tacos. One stop at Taco Mayo (we'll get to it someday) and one at Taco Casa. So the RJG has always been an eccentric, what can I tell you? I am my father's son that's for sure.
So when we moved to NE Tarrant in 2003, I was thrilled to find out there was one in Watauga (on Watuaga/Mid-Cities), a much shorter drive than Durant at least! Since that time, NE Tarrant grabbed two more: Colleyville (Hwy 26 - where else?) and Keller (Keller Parkway - again, where else?).
Taco Casa isn't the best taco chain I've been to, but I'd put them in the top third. Their store in Keller, in particular, is super clean and the health department usually gives it a perfect score. They load up the tacos, so a bag of 5 really fills you up. Lots of cheese and lettuce, and of course meat. The wife likes them too, but depending on her mood sometimes says they have too much meat. For regular RJG readers, that's a recommendation right there! The meat is a bit saltier than most chains, but is extremely tasty. Another crucial element of a good taco stand, is the quality of their sauce (in the bottle or packaged). And they have a simple, not too hot, but very good red taco sauce. I would prefer some hotter options, but it's not a show stopper.
So if you're in North Texas, heading towards the Ft. Worth side of things, then have a go at Taco Casa. Good fast food and a nice diversion. And a whole lot better than Taco Bell.
Also a word about their signage: Taco Casa has a retro cornball look, with the big sombrero and handlebar bigote. Awesome.
Categorically, I'm separating Tacos from Mexican, as it's two entirely different experiences. Similar to how Pizza is different from Italian.
For Urbanspoon, I'll add the Watauga, Keller and Durant, Oklahoma locations as I've been to all 3 of these quite a bit. Though we mainly only go to the Keller location anymore. I've been to the Colleyville location only once.