The untold truth of Del Taco

When it comes to fast food restaurants, it can be hard to stand out. There are so many places out there, and so many of them rely on the same kinds of food: burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches, milkshakes, salads, and other similar menu items. But Del Taco is one fast food place that manages to come off as a little more unique. It might be the super low prices, or it could be the fact that they serve a mix of American-style Mexican food (like tacos and burritos), as well as classic American fare (burgers and fries). Basically, Del Taco has a little bit of everything, which is never a bad thing. 

The fast food chain is also known for selling fresh food that tastes better than your average fast food fare (according to fans). Unfortunately, it hasn't quite made its way over to the East Coast yet, but much of the rest of the country gets to enjoy their tacos with a side of fries. Check out some of the things you may not have known about Del Taco.

Del Taco took off pretty quickly

Del Taco has been around for quite a while now. According to the restaurant's official website, it was started by Ed Hackbarth and David Jameson. They opened the very first Del Taco in 1964 in Yermo, California, with a menu that included tacos, tostadas, fries, and cheeseburgers. Their first day open was a huge success — they made $169 in sales, which comes out to about 900 tacos. Clearly, customers were pretty happy with the place! 

That success stuck around, and the chain continued to grow throughout the '70s. In 1977, there were 50 restaurants, and that doubled to 100 just a year later. They also started to add more menu items, like the bun taco, quesadilla, and ice cream sundaes. Ten years later, Del Taco got a whole lot bigger, and increased more when they merged with the Naugles restaurant chain. They even started staying open 24/7, which was a pretty big deal in the 1980s. The chain's 500th restaurant was opened in 2008, and it's just as popular today as ever.

Del Taco has a secret menu hack you need to know about

One of the most wonderful things about Del Taco is that you get the best of both worlds: you can eat Mexican-style food and classic American food all at once, because sometimes you just want fries with your burrito. If you always want to add fries to any order, then you need to know about one of the best secret menu hacks out there. According to Food Beast, there are two little words you can say to your cashier that will make your order even more delicious: apparently, saying "Go bold" after ordering gets you secret sauce and fries added to any item. 

When Food Beast saw the tip online, they decided to test it out for themselves. They headed to their local Del Taco and went wild after employees confirmed the hack was true. The outlet "went bold" with several different menu items, including the crispy shrimp burrito, Double Del Cheeseburger, and even a vanilla shake. And just to be clear, those fries you're adding aren't on the side — they're going to be inside whatever you order, whether it's a burger or a milkshake. 

So how much does this bold upgrade cost? According to Food Beast, just 39 cents per item. 

There are a few other secret menu items worth ordering at Del Taco

The "Go Bold" trick isn't the only way to get something off-the-menu when ordering at Del Taco. There are a few other secret menu options as well, if you want to get creative. Thrillist says one of the most popular secret menu options is the "Stoner Burrito." It's a 1/2-pound bean-and-cheese burrito that comes with red sauce, special sauce, and the famous crinkle-cut french fries. Be prepared to know how to make it, though, as not every restaurant knows what it is.  

There's also the Bun Taco, which is a menu item from when the restaurant first opened. The Bun Taco is basically what it sounds like: it's your typical taco made of beef, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, but instead of going in a tortilla or shell, it's all inside a sesame seed bun. In 2014, they brought it back to the official menu when celebrating their 50th anniversary, but it appears that it's no longer on the menu, although they should be able to make it anyway since they still have all the components. 

Del Taco has some delicious options for vegans and vegetarians

Sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet can be tough, especially when you're looking to grab a quick lunch at a fast food place. But Del Taco has you covered!

In addition to their Beyond Meat burritos and tacos, there are some other options as well. If you're vegetarian, there's the bean and cheese Burrito, the Crunchtada Tostada, their cheese quesadillas, breakfast burritos, 8-Layer Veggie Burrito, Breakfast Rollers, the bean and cheese cup, Potato Poppers, and wait — there's even better news. If you're looking for something to satisfy your sweet tooth, their churros, churro ice cream dessert, caramel cheesecake bites, chocolate chip cookie bites, and all their shakes are all vegetarian. Yay!

Now, what if you're vegan? You can pick up their Beyond Avocado Taco, the avocado veggie bowl, crinkle cut fries, or hashbrown sticks, and make a complete meal. And here's the important thing: vegans and vegetarians can make a meal that's every bit as substantial as their meat-loving companions. That sounds much better than just sticking to the side or two that some other chains might offer, doesn't it?

Del Taco's Beyond Meat tacos were insanely successful

It was Burger King who made headlines with their Impossible Whopper, but Del Taco was one of the chains early to hop on the meatless bandwagon, too. They became the first Mexican fast food chain to form a meatless partnership, this one with Beyond Meat (via Vox).

Two months after the announcement, Vox said they were looking at one of their most successful new product launches ever. They'd sold more than two million Beyond tacos in just those first two months, and it was that success that led to the development of the Beyond 8 Layer Burrito and the Epic Beyond Cali Burrito. Their success didn't go unnoticed — it wasn't long before Qdoba announced they were going to be doing the same thing and strangely, Taco Bell made an announcement of their own: they weren't going to be getting in on the trend any time soon. 

And you don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate their Beyond Meat tacos — that's part of the beauty of their offerings, they absolutely stand on their own. Who can pass up a Beyond Avocado Taco — especially when they're just as high in protein as their standard tacos? Will we be seeing more Beyond Meat offerings from Del Taco in the future? Fingers crossed!

Del Taco offers food for a really low price

Del Taco is known for their great food, but they're also known for low prices. While prices have obviously gone up since the chain first opened in the '60s (you just can't make a taco for 19 cents these days), they have remained on the lower side, and likely always will. One awesome thing to note is that they have a legitimate dollar menu — called Del's Dollar Deals Menu — something many other chains don't have anymore. In a statement, Barry Westrum, Del Taco's Chief Marketing Officer, said, "In a landscape that's saturated with limited item five- and six-dollar offers, Del Taco is drawing on its legacy as the value leader in the fast food space to deliver unmatched flavor per dollar."

They offer more than 15 items for a dollar or under across breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. This super inexpensive menu includes mini quesadillas, a taco that is just 79 cents, chili cheese nachos, a chicken tostada, and Chicken Rollers. It's one of the things that helps the chain stand out from their competition.

Del taco used to have a different name

You obviously don't know Del Taco as anything else — that's been the name for a very long time now, and it will likely never change. But that doesn't mean it never did. Del Taco actually had a different name in the beginning: Casa Del Taco. According to Funding Universe, Hackbarth opened the first Del Taco (which was then called Casa Del Taco) after working for old fast food chains Bell's Burgers and Taco Tia. Then, in 1964, Hackbarth partnered with Jameson, and they opened the fourth Casa Del Taco location in Corona, California, which was also the first drive-through store. 

As the years went on, Casa Del Taco got more and more popular, and in 1972, they opened their largest store in Newport Beach, California (now with a third partner on-board, Dick Naugles). By 1973, they felt ready to make some changes, and one of the first was to drop the "Casa" from its name. That year, it became known as simply Del Taco, which is what we still call the restaurant today. 

Del Taco was once sued for their mascot

Fast food mascots aren't all fun and games, and Del Taco's mascot trouble is proof of that. Back in 1999, the restaurant seemed to pick up a new mascot, who they used in almost all of their television commercial ads. The mascot was a western hero named, of course, "Del Taco." According to Funding Universe, this man was "based on the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns of the 1970s," and Del Taco was an underdog — "much like the restaurant Del Taco with respect to industry giant Taco Bell." 

Despite the popularity of the ads, there was one company that was not happy. A month after they first appeared on television, Zorro Productions Inc. and Tristar Pictures Inc. slapped Del Taco with a lawsuit. They claimed that the character of "Del Taco" infringed on their trademarked Zorro. Del Taco President Rob Petty told the Los Angeles Times, "He's not Zorro. We didn't set out to copy Zorro. We did our homework out front making sure that we weren't stepping on any toes in this process." In the end, Del Taco settled in January 2000, said they would change the character, and then ended up getting rid of it completely. 

The founder of Del Taco is still a big part of the company

Ed Hackbarth, the founder of Del Taco, may be in his 80s, but he's still proving himself to be a vital part of the company. In June 2018, The Press Enterprise reported that Hackbarth had appeared at the grand opening of a Del Taco in Corona to show face and interact with customers and employees. And not only was he hanging out at a grand opening — the outlet also said, "on Monday he was cleaning tables at Barstow No. 1, one of three Del Tacos in the desert town that he kept when he sold off the chain in the 1970s."

In 2012, The O.C. Register said that Hackbarth was still actively managing three Del Tacos in the desert — that's a lot for a man who was, at the time, 78-years-old! In one day, Hackbarth wanted to spend an hour at each of the restaurants, which meant an overall five-hour commute. Why is he still working? Hackbarth explained, "I love what I do. The customers make me so happy."

Having fresh food is very important to Del Taco

Aside from great value, one of the things that makes Del Taco stand out is the quality of their food. The chain is dedicated to serving good food made with fresh ingredients. In June 2018, the chain introduced an entire menu refresh, putting an emphasis on fresh food. Barry Westrum, Chief Marketing Officer, told QSR Magazine, "We're further leaning into what enables this brand to continue to differentiate itself from Taco Bell and Chipotle, with industry-leading value and traditional food prep, where our team members chop, dice, shred, and grill throughout the day." In other words: their food is made by hand. 

They are really proud of this fact, and they know it's something that makes them different. In 2017, John Cappasola, who was then the president and CEO of Del Taco, told CNBC, "This is actually a structural advantage for us, the fact that we do it fresh in our restaurants." He explained that employees are the ones who do the cutting and grilling, because they know that's what delivers the best food experience. 

You can get Del Taco's hot sauce delivered

For many Del Taco customers, adding on their own condiments is super important for flavor — especially when it comes to hot sauce. Like their competitor, Taco Bell, Del Taco is known for their delicious hot sauce packets, which are a fan favorite. In fact, they are so known for this that they decided to do something about it: in 2011, the chain began to sell their hot sauce packets on their online web store. Yes, that's right: you can buy Del Taco hot sauce online, without even having to get off your couch. You can choose from 100 packets of Mild Sauce, Del Scorcho, or Del Inferno for just $6.99. There's also the multi-pack (300 packets of all) for $18.99. In packet size, they're super convenient! 

The online store sells more Del Taco merch, including sweatshirts, hats, socks with tacos all over them, shirts, and even baby onesies. You can wear your love for Del Taco whenever you want! 

Del Taco was at the center of a massive sexual harassment lawsuit

In 2018, Del Taco found themselves the subject of a major lawsuit. According to the Los Angeles Times, they were being sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on behalf of female employees who claimed they had been regularly harassed by male supervisors since 2014.

The lawsuit claimed that even after the harassment had been reported and the chain — particularly a location at Rancho Cucamonga — had been notified, the behavior continued. Investigation on behalf of the employee who reported being the victim of sexual harassment uncovered five more female employees — most between the ages of 16 and 18 — who had also been targeted. The women said they were subjected to vulgar comments and unwanted physical contact instigated by two male employees in particular, and were forced to quit because of it.

Del Taco responded, in part: "Del Taco takes this matter very seriously... we will take action as appropriate. Del Taco is committed to providing a safe environment for all employees and customers, free from harassment of any kind."

Del Taco essential oils are a thing

Love Del Taco? Love the smell that wafts out of a restaurant, or upwards from your tray? Can't get enough of it? Wish you could experience all that at home? Good news — you absolutely can.

In late 2019, Del Taco introduced what might be the most unlikely of product tie-ins and no, it wasn't an April Fool's Day announcement. According to The Mercury News, the chain was going to be branching out into aromatherapy with the release of a series of essential oils. Customers could pick up chocolate, churro, and vanilla oils, and it was a tie-in to the release of the chain's Mini Churro Dipper Shakes. 

It seems as though their venture into aromatherapy was a limited-time offer as well, but we all know that the potential for bringing back something super successful — and social media-worthy — is high. In the meantime, don't worry: they have a ton of really strange merchandise in their webstore. Del Taco earbuds or fidget spinners, anyone?