Thursday, May 1, 2008

Taco Casa, Tacos, Keller-TX, Watauga-TX, Durant-OK

Last visit: February 2014 (Keller)

Rating: Buy

NE Tarrant locations: Watauga, Colleyville, Keller, Haltom City, Euless + 1 in Roanoke

Total locations: 63 (60 in Texas + 3 in Oklahoma); 3 are opening soon.

January 2014 update: It's the annual update for Taco Casa. There are many days I pop on over for a sack of tacos, and the cars are 10 deep, and the line is moving fast. The Keller location, at least, seems to be habitually popular. For over 20 years, I've been eating at Taco Casa (see review below for the history), and they never fail to disappoint. Apparently the market loves them too, as they opened 8 new locations in the last year. That's pretty impressive for a small, regional chain. And it looks like they have finally arrived in the city of Dallas, after surrounding the city with stores.

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.

Original review

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 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.

Website

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.

Taco Casa on Urbanspoon
Taco Casa on Urbanspoon
Taco Casa on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joe,
Thanks for the positive review.
My name is Blake Wright and I am the owner/operator of the Taco Casa in Durant, OK.
I am pleased that you have been treated and served in the fashion that we at Taco Casa strive to maintain. To know that someone has taken the time to post a positive comment means that we must do some good sometimes!
Thanks again, and look me up when you get back to Durant!
Blake Wright

RJG said...

Thanks Blake for writing in - always great to see this kind of feedback from the owners! Hope you continue to thrive. Haven't been to Durant in years, but will definitely stop by if I get the chance!

ferny said...

RJG,

Taco Casa is what I consider the best fast food taco chain. In my opinion they strive to be what Taco Bell was like back in the 70's-80's. Taco Casa actually makes their food on-site versus Taco Bell where they are essentially just re-heating everything. By making their food I'm talking frying the shells, pressure-cooking the beans, actually cooking ground beef, etc. I also like the fact that Taco Casa actually puts cheese on the items that are supposed to have it. Last time I went to Taco Bell (serious mistake on my part), I could count the number cheese shreds in each taco. In general, fast food was better growing in the 70's/80's....those mega corporations just try to cut costs and it really does end affecting the food.

RJG said...

Hi Ferny,

Thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree with you more concerning both Taco Casa, and the effect of Wall Street profit demands verse putting out a quality food product consistently (witness Taco Bell). I have a large editorial post somewhere on this blog that addresses this situation.

Taco Casa is probably the best fast food taco chain in Texas, but some of the best chains are up in Kansas like Taco Tico, Taco Grande, Taco Rio (only one Wichita locale now - but it's the best of all), Taco Casa (different than the Texas or Alabama chains). And many more... I had intended on writing a full taco guide, but it's been awhile since I've been to these chains (two years at least).

Chris Graham said...

My visit was horrible. You mentioned the place was clean. Did you request to see their health inspection report? I requested to see it but they would not show it to me. There were bugs in my drink, and I requested a refund for my drink and only the remaining food that I had not eaten and that too was denied. (FYI, I spent $26 and was only requesting $3.50 refund.)

The manger admitted there was a bug problem and then went on to tell me that there are bugs in every restaurant including my house and that I should get over it. I filed a police report and plan on contacting the health services on Monday.

RJG said...

Chris,

Sorry you had a bad visit. To your comment about the Health Report, the health statistics are published in the Keller Citizen for each restaurant in the area. I haven't looked in a long while, but this location had a perfect score, which is unusual in itself. Even the cleanest places get demerits.

Anonymous said...

WOW...We here in Abilene, Texas must now be in the big league since we just got a Taco Casa. Its at a great location, next to I-20, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and its the "new rave" around here!!!! Thanks to whoever I owe this to....

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Gainesville and TC was a staple. Whenever you went to town, you had to swing in. So I grew up loving it. I then went to college at SOSU in Durant, so the TC there both fit my budget and taste (they had an all you can eat night on Monday). However...I now live in East Mississippi and there are several TCs just across the state line in AL but they are horrible. They have similar menu, but that’s where the similarities end. Poor service, poor taste, kinda pricey when compared. Your first TC experience has to be in Texas, preferrably G.

RJG said...

Hi Anon,

So here's the deal. The Taco Casa's in Alabama are a different chain. There are 3 unrelated Taco Casa chains I know of. There's the one based in Gainesville, Texas as you referred to (and the subject of my post). The one you're referring to is based in Alabama. I had better luck than you, but it was in Birmingham, so maybe just a better store? I only went once though. There's also the Taco Casa chain in Topeka, which is outstanding - and interestingly enough for you - they have a couple of stores in Vicksburg, Mississippi! (other side of the state - but still...). I've actaully been to that one, and liked it though not as good as the Topeka stores.

Anytway, I hope you find a better Taco Casa (Alabama).

Thanks for your comment!

- RJG

Aaron said...

RJG,

First time into Taco Casa yesterday in Keller, TX. I would say the food was fresh and mounds of it. I am not exaggerating...MOUNDS!

My wife got a Tostada and said she should have gotten two of them.

Service was fantastic and fast. We will be back.

Aaron