A regional Tex-Mex chain was just named the best Mexican restaurant in America.
Taco Bueno ranks as Americans' favorite Mexican chain, according to Market Force Information's annual quick service restaurant study. It beat out restaurant like Chipotle and Qdoba, which tied for first last year, as well as Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and El Pollo Loco.
With 175 locations in seven states, the Farmers Branch, Texas-based chain is significantly smaller than much of the competition. For comparison, Chipotle has more than 1,500 locations.
The first Taco Bueno opened in Abilene, Texas, in 1967.
The chain emphasizes the freshness of products, with salsa made in-house and pinto beans boiled overnight to refry in the morning.
Items unique to the Taco Bueno menu include Machacos, which are tacos made with soft pieces of pitas as the shells, and MexiDips and Chips, with made in-house tortilla chips and signature guacamole.
Taco Bueno also serves some super-sized meals unique the chain. The Big Freak'n Taco is a "two-handed beast," while the Wholotta Platter packs in a taco, Muchado, rice, refried beans, a side of queso, and a "chilida" — a chili- and queso-covered enchilada.
The menu additionally includes more standard Tex-Mex fare, like burritos, nachos, and tacos.
Taco Bueno has been offering breakfast since 2007 — seven years before Taco Bell began serving the first meal of the day.
While most people outside Texas and Oklahoma may not know about the chain, Taco Bueno loyalists are a vocal force on social media.
If your date takes you to taco bueno before prom, he's a keeper. pic.twitter.com/A0102vt1T0— The Other Katy Hall (@katyhall29) March 20, 2016
@tacobueno will do I never cheat on you with Taco Bell psstt your burritos and Quesadillas are the loves of my life— Hails (@haileyh97) March 14, 2016
@tacobueno you're totally right! I could eat taco Bueno every single meal! & so could my daughters!— ASHLEY✌️ (@itsashleyyyy13) March 13, 2016
Taco Bueno > Taco Bell.— Ty (@Tyler_Jayce96) March 22, 2016
Don't @ me.
The company began franchising in 2005, and was acquired by TPG Growth last year.
Now the chain has been making a franchise push in states including Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Louisiana. Unlike rivals Chipotle and Taco Bell, the chain does not seem to be currently interested in international growth, focusing on expansion in the Southwest.
"We've fought head-to-head battles against our rivals in Mexican QSR [quick-service restaurants], and we know how to carve our own niche and win loyal guests," reads the company's franchise website.
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