Regional Taco Chains That Will Soon Be Taking Over The US

Ever since the taco was first introduced to the United States by Mexican migrants in the late 1800s, America's food landscape has been forever changed. Back then, the humble taco was considered a lower-class street food first associated with a group of women called the Chili Queens, who pushed tamale carts around to earn money at places like festivals. They soon spread to other cities like San Antonio and business "boomed" once tourists arrived because of the building of the railroad. Some might say these ladies were the original taco chain in America.

Now, Americans eat more than 4.5 billion tacos every single year, thanks to heavyweight taco chains like Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Qdoba. But Americans have a huge appetite for the Mexican dish that doesn't look like it will be satiated any time soon. In fact, the global taco market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.76% from 2020 to 2027.

What does that mean in simple terms? Lots more taco joints are coming to your area soon. There are several regional taco chains that are making a serious push to claim their piece of the quick-serve taco market as we speak. Keep reading to learn about Mexican-American restaurants you'll probably start seeing a lot more of in the near future.

Taco John's

One taco joint that has recently made waves in the news is Taco John's. The creators of this restaurant were visionaries in a way — they trademarked the popular phrase "Taco Tuesday" way back in 1989. Taco Bell has since gone on a mission to liberate the phrase for use — even basketball star Lebron James tried to do it back in 2019. Taco John's CEO Jim Creel isn't backing down, though. "I'd like to thank our worthy competitors at Taco Bell for reminding everyone that Taco Tuesday is best celebrated at Taco John's," he said in an emailed statement (via MarketWatch).

Restaurant "beef" aside, Taco John's currently has almost 400 locations across 23 states and is looking to push further into America's heart. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the Wyoming-born taco restaurant is even planning a big expansion as well as a makeover for its menu. Over the next three years, it plans on opening 80 stores, with several already planned to open in places like Milwaukee, Massachusetts, Louisville, and the Grand Rapids area.

It also plans on bringing exciting new items to the menu, such as a pulled pork quesadilla that's been smoked for eight hours and a fried chicken taco. The brand knows it needs to stand out against the competition, as well. The chain is updating the logo with brighter and bolder colors, new branding, and packaging, complete with an updated restaurant interior as well

Del Taco

If you live on the west coast of the United States, you are probably very familiar with Del Taco. The Mexican-American joint is known for things like its fish tacos, three-layer nachos, and breakfast burritos, as well as options like burgers and french fries. Although the brand has been operating since its founding in 1964 in California, it was recently purchased by San Diego-based Jack in the Box Inc. for $585 million.

After the acquisition, Jack in the Box CEO Darin Harris said (via CNBC), "This is a natural combination of two like-minded, challenger brands with outstanding growth opportunities." At the time of the purchase in 2021, Del Taco had around 600 restaurants in over 16 states, making it the second-largest Mexican fast-food chain behind Taco Bell.

Since then, Del Taco has introduced several plans to expand while refreshing its brand offerings. The taco joint created a new prototype for locations called "Fresh Flex" which features the first ground-up double-drive thru that features one lane for digital orders and also includes a mobile pickup locker. According to QSR Magazine, the taco chain has signed deals for more than 68 stores to open, with at least seven of the restaurants opening in Florida in areas like Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Palm Beach. Looks like Del Taco won't just be a west coast thing much longer.

Rusty Taco

Rusty Taco is a Dallas-born taco shop founded in 2010, named after its founder, Rusty Fenton. The restaurant was inspired by a humble fish ceviche taco that Rusty ate on the side of the street after a day of fishing in Acapulco, Mexico. He long had a dream to open a friendly, neighborhood taco stand — "Nothing fancy. Just real flavor," according to the company's website. A few years later, the dream became a reality at a building in their Dallas neighborhood.

Since then, the friendly, neighborhood taco joint has gained the backing of multi-brand platform, Inspire Brands (parent company of Arby's), and has set its sights on exponential growth. The company has already signed several franchise agreements to expand into states like Utah, Virginia, Nevada, and other locations in Texas.

But Brendan Mauri, president of Rusty Taco, is already thinking much bigger. He believes if Rusty Taco expands strategically, there's potential to expand by 40-50 new units per year, saying that the brand has had success in warm-weather states because of the potential for outdoor patios, but restaurants have also found success in places like Ohio and Minnesota. "I think it speaks to our brand can really play well almost anywhere, and tacos and margaritas and amazing queso are such a broad appeal and a growing category," Mauri said (via QSR Magazine). Yes, we tend to agree, Brendan. Keep the Rusty Tacos coming.

Capital Tacos

#DoneRight — that's one of the first things you'll read when you enter Capital Taco's website. This Tex-Mex taco joint prides itself on making the highest-quality tacos with no shortcuts. Ever since the creation of the restaurant in Florida, it has raked in some pretty high-level reviews, like a "Top 3 Taco in America" by Business Insider. Since its beginnings in the Land O' Lakes, Florida, the chain has since opened additional units in the state and is diving deeper into the world of franchising. The Taco Joint is targeting markets in states like Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and of course, Florida.

Josh Luger, Capital Tacos' operating partner and co-owner, said (via QSR Magazine), "We've had literally hundreds of requests over the years — from guests who have visited our stores locally across Florida and from states across the country — asking if and how they can bring Capital to their hometown." The owners of Capital listened to the requests and made a "bulletproof" concept and are now ready to expand the popular taco across the States while staying true to their roots.

Get ready to start seeing exciting items like the fried avocado taco, battered fish bowls, and hot chicken burritos near you soon. The restaurant even had a one-day special for a Cajun Fried Gator Taco, if you're up for it.

Taco Cabana

Those based in Texas are probably familiar with Taco Cabana — even if no one else in America is. Although the taco joint has around 150 units, almost all of them are situated in the Lone Star State. The restaurant was originally founded by a man named Felix Stehling in the late 1970s in an old abandoned Dairy Queen. Stehling decided to open Taco Cabana as opposed to expanding his already-popular bar, Crystal Pistol, so he could make money all day (and not just at night). He started painting the restaurants pink to catch people's attention, and to this day, people still think of pink whenever Taco Cabana comes to mind.

Although it's been around for a while, the taco chain was recently acquired by Yadav Enterprises for $85 million in 2021, and owner Anil Yadav has big plans for it. He wants to open more than 1,000 units over the next five to 10 years outside of Texas. Yadav understands the brand is a regional legacy, but sees it becoming a national brand and household name.

To bolster its Tex-Mex menu, new items have been added, such as the Beef Picadillo Flautas, Shrimp Tampico with pineapple chipotle salsa, as well as jalapeno salsa and white queso. The chain is even adding more to its alcoholic menu, like a peach margarita. It has even stepped into Taco Bell's territory by introducing its own take on the Mexican Pizza — the Double Crunch Pizza. Don't be surprised if you find a Taco Cabana on your street in the near future.

Chronic Tacos

California natives are probably familiar with Chronic Tacos — a taco joint that was first opened on the beaches of Orange County by partners Daniel Biello and Randy Wyner. They were inspired by the taquerias they grew up eating at, but wanted to create a spot people could hang out at. According to Chronic Tacos' current president, Michael Mohammed (via QSR Magazine), "[Wyner] was a bit of a picky eater," so they wanted a spot that allowed for more customization.

The taco shop soon became famous for its 13-inch "monster" burritos, tacos al pastor, carne asada fries, and California burritos. The restaurant even partnered with a hot sauce company and hosts the Gringo Bandito Chronic Tacos Challenge – a competitive eating contest. After Chronic Taco's first store in Newport Beach, they opened a second location in Huntington Beach, and in 2006 began to franchise, opening around 30 units in the years that followed. However, the partners burned out and eventually sold the company to partners. But five years later, Wyner realized this was a mistake and sought to buy back the company.

After that, Wyner got to work fixing the problems with the franchise, like inconsistent branding and training across franchises. After rebuilding the foundations of the restaurant chain, they set their sights on branching out. As of 2023, there are over 50 Chronic Tacos across the United States, Canada, and Japan. But Wyner is aiming for 300-500 units worldwide, so expect some California beach culture to pop up around the world in the coming years.

Bubbakoo's Burritos

Bubbakoo's Burritos is a Mexican-American fusion that was born in 2008 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The goal for this burrito (and taco) joint was simple: to give local customers the most delicious and affordable Mexican fusion food around. Co-founders Bill Hart and Paul Altero believed in serving one customer at a time and dedicated their restaurants to providing the best service possible.

Although the chain grew modestly and slowly in the beginning, the chain exploded over the past five years and now has more than 100 units across 16 states, but it isn't going to stop there. The founders are aiming to have around 500 restaurants in the next five years. "We are starting to walk right now with a few franchisees," Altero told "We would like to start running."

Although the founders are well aware of the competition in the space, with restaurants like Taco Bell and Chipotle on the horizon, Altero is confident that Bubbakoo's menu sets them apart. "They're not a lot of places you're going to get a cooked-to-order hibachi steak and shrimp burrito ... It's our offerings that are so unique, that brings you back ... coupled with our service." In the last few years, the burrito chain has expanded into new states, including Ohio, Nevada, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky, Connecticut, and Maryland. The company even made an appearance on Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 list.

Torchy's Tacos

Torchy's "Damn Good" Tacos started out of a food trailer connected to a red Vespa in the bustling city of Austin, Texas. Founder Michael Rypka rolled around the city, spreading his delicious experimental tacos, and the rest was history. Since the "Vespa" years in 2006, the chain has grown to over 90 locations in 14 states, but CEO G.J. Hart has said they want to open at least 160 stores across 15 states in the coming years.

The taco joint prides itself on its super creative "Damn Good Tacos," like the Trailer Park taco (filled with fried chicken), green chile pork, fried avocado, and Baja shrimp, as well as several different breakfast tacos. It also serves burritos, queso, and side dishes like street corn. Torchy's is focusing on pushing into less-saturated markets for now, before pushing into heavily taco'd areas like New York, Boston, or California, but those areas are on the radar as well. Soon, people all around the country will get to taste those famous Austin tacos for themselves.

Pancheros Mexican Grill

Pancheros traces its history all the way back to the college town of Iowa City in 1992. Rodney Anderson positioned his humble taco joint right next to popular bars on the street filled with students looking to unwind for the weekend. Although Mexican food wasn't as popular as it is today, Rodney believed in his Chicago-style burritos. And he was right — the burritos became a hit.

Soon, Anderson began to expand beyond the college market into surrounding areas, and Pancheros became famous for their hot and fresh tortillas that transformed balls of dough into perfectly pressed tortillas. Filled with the freshest ingredients, the burritos were so structurally sound that they could stand up on their own.

Over the years, Pancheros has steadily grown its cult-like following into the national scene. The restaurant boasts more than 70 restaurants across 13 states through mostly organic growth. In 2021, Joe Gale was introduced as the chain's director of franchise development, with plenty of experience from successful brands like Coca-Cola. Since then, the burrito spot has opened new units in Moline, Illinois, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It looks like more are on the horizon as well.


Uberrito (formerly Mission Burrito) is a Mexican-American chain that focuses on incredibly fresh ingredients and the power of selection. According to its website, you can choose from four different kinds of tortillas, three kinds of beans, and five different kinds of proteins. Combine that with over 20 different toppings like sauteed spinach and sliced avocado, and you've got a burrito that fits you perfectly.

The combinations are always different, but one thing that the burritos always have in common is the highest quality ingredients available. Although the chain only has a few locations currently, it is planning to open 15-20 every year in states like Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, and South Carolina.

To support the franchise's growth, CEO Pete Pascuzzi is going to be focusing on the on-the-go consumer, as 66% of the business's sales come off-premises. Future store designs will be smaller but will include double drive-thru lanes with mobile ordering available. Getting a massively-customized burrito from the comfort of your car seems like something most Americans would love.


Back in 2006, founder Dario Wolos bought a VW bus (also known as a "combi"), and took it all the way to the beach town of Playa del Carmen. The car was stripped of its engine, transmission, and seats, and replaced with cooking equipment. The small bus turned into a beachside taco stand. Four years later, the owners moved their "taco stand" into a garage in downtown New York to open up their first taqueria, and since then, new neighborhood taquerias have been opened in Miami and Washington DC as well.

In 2021, Tacombi got the backing of Enlightened Hospitality Investments which provided it with $27.5 million in funding so it could expand. The restaurant is aiming to hit 75 new stores while growing its packaged goods line, Vista Hermosa, which is already available in stores like Whole Foods.

The restaurant prides itself on bringing the most authentic Mexican flavors to Americans. Its menu consists of tacos like beef birria, al pastor, and baja crispy fish. The taco joint also serves cocktails like Margaritas and Palomas. Who needs a beachside vacation when Tacombi can bring it to your neighborhood?

Fuzzy's Taco Shop

Fuzzy's Taco Shop was founded back in 2001 in Fort Worth, Texas. It was opened near Texas Christian University, so to cater to its student customers, the shop served delicious, inexpensive Baja tacos. Since its early days as a neighborhood hangout for college kids, the brand has expanded to more than 150 locations across 18 states.

Recently, it was acquired by Dine Brands Global for $80 million in cash, which also owns brands like Applebee's and IHOP. According to QSR Magazine, Fuzzy's long-term goal is to double in size within the next five years up to 300 locations. The main markets the restaurant is targeting are Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama.

Despite the brand's rapid growth, its unique tacos have stayed true to its humble college-affordable Baja tacos. Some examples of tacos include the grilled mahi taco, the fajita beef taco, and the shredded brisket taco. The restaurant also features breakfast tacos, chilaquiles, loaded nachos, quesadillas, and more.