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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Taco de Carlos, RIP

No, I'm not reviewing Taco de Carlos because it doesn't exist any longer but I was mildly excited earlier today when I finally found an image on the web that showed their old logo with the Carls Jr. Happy Star holding a fast food drink and a taco.

Taco de Carlos Mug

Taco de Carlos was an experimental spinoff of the Carls Jr. chain in the 1970's and early 1980's that featured, what else? Mexican food. My family went several times to the one that was at Brookhurst and Warner in Fountain Valley (right next to a standard Carls Jr. that is still in business). I don't remember anything about the food but I remember being very intrigued by the kitschy Happy Star character sporting a sombrero.

Does anyone else remember Taco de Carlos?

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Mom was hired by the two brothers to help lanch this restaurant. We moved soon after to another area and she left this job.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks. If you or your mom have any more information or pictures about Taco de Carlos, let us know.

Dyanna said...

We used to go to the one in San Bernardino after church on Sundays. I loved it, my favorite was the California Burrito, it was a deep fried burrito, OMG it was heaven. I moved away from CA almost 25 years ago but Taco De Carlos still comes up in conversation.

Anonymous said...

I just learned that Tacos de Carlos was no longer. I too enjoyed the California Burrito. It was a shredded beef burrito which they deef dried. Those were the days when I ate meat.

How could they lose with that burrito?

Anonymous said...

I worked there briefly as a teen while attending nearby Fountain Valley High School back in 1979-1981.

The manager stuck me in this utility room and made me watch a mind numbing corporate video before I was hired, and the cost of my uniform came out of my first check, which sucked.

The one thing that always stuck with me was the "playdough fun factory" french fry machine. I would load it's hopper with dried potato pellets, it would add water, mix, and force the resulting paste through a tube with some crinklecut wires at the end, where a wiper blade would sweep through and the fries would drop directly to the fry basket.

Perfectly formed fries every time.

We molded up that french fry potato dough into typical rude shapes like dicks, tits, etc...Which we fried up and served to each other in the back area when the manager wasn't looking.

I was finally canned when I stuffed a rubber rat into a burrito of an employee who was eating in the front dining room and she flipped out in front of the customers.

I still have my name tag, though!

ChristianZ said...

So I probably went through the drive thru as a kid when you were working there.

Anonymous said...

I remember it was always a mad dash from Los Amigos High School to Taco de Carlos at lunch time. (A department store called Gemco used to be across the street. I don't know what it is now). The California Burrito was my favorite. Frankly, all the other food at Taco de Carlos was bad. When Taco de Carlos closed, they moved the California Burrito over to Carl's Jr. and called it the Crispirito (not sure it that's the correct spelling). I've tried to make them many times at home, but they never taste like I remember. I wish I could find a recipe.

ChristianZ said...

I used to go to the Gemco a lot too. I believe it is a Sam's Club now. I think the Gemco closed down in 1987.

Anonymous said...

Aw, man, I do seriously miss Taco de Carlos. In addition to the one in Fountain Valley on Warner Avenue just west of Brookhurst Avenue, I remember one was built right next to the Carl's Jr. on Bristol Avenue just south of Warner Ave. in Santa Ana. The Carl's Jr. is still there, and the Taco de Carlos building is also still there, but now it's an El Pollo Loco. I forget what it was in the intervening years between Taco de Carlos' demise and the rise of El Pollo Loco.

I found this info on Taco de Carlos elsewhere, and was the official story from CKE Enterprises about it:

In 1972 Carl's Jr. decided to enter the Mexican food market by opening restaurants called "Taco de Carlos," which featured a broad menu of burritos, tacos and other Mexican fare, as well as hamburgers, fries and other items for those who preferred less spicy meals. By the end of the decade they had 17 units in their Mexican chain. At the time, nobody else was really expanding in the Mexican fast-food business. Unfortunately, the concept did not do as well as they'd hoped and they wanted to spend more time and energy towards focusing on developing their burgers. Eventually, they closed those units. Most of those buildings were sold to other fast-food chains.In the late 80's, based on the rising popularity with Mexican fast-food, coupled with not really wanting to let go of the "Taco de Carlos" idea, they again were looking into expanding into the Mexican fast-food market. So, in 1988, realizing that they were a recognized brand with a quality product, Carl's Jr. began dual-branding with the Green Burrito. By doing so, they could attract the Green Burrito's loyal customers and introduce them to their Carl's Jr. products and vice versa.

RIP, Taco de Carlos, Naugles, and Pup 'n Taco.

ChristianZ said...

Thank you for our most informative comment on Taco de Carlos yet. Since you also mentioned Naugles I should mention that I'm about to post a memoriam on them as well.

SUZY Q said...

I too worked at TDC (which is what we affectionately called it). They were the first to have a taco salad,and a burito called the machaca. Also first fast food mexican retaurant with cinnamin treats (cinnamin crispas). I truly miss the california burito, which was taco meat,mixed cheses and a green chili, deep fried. It was a fun place to work and I have tons of good memories. My store was at Harbor and Katella, right across from the bus station. Anyone else remember TDC 163? Memories!!

ChristianZ said...

Thanks, Suzy Q. Sounds like you got to work right by Disneyland.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Taco de Carlos on Bristol just south of Warner in Santa Ana. My parents would go bowling at Santana Lanes right behind the TDC and eat there afterwards. I introduced them to the California Burrito. And they were hooked. My favorite were those foot long tacos.

Anonymous said...

What remember most about Orange County is the places where i ate. Bob's Big Boy and Tacos De Carlos. Bob's reminded of an oldstyle Howard Johnson's Restaurant back the Northeast where i came from and returned to in '84. The thing i remember about Taco De Carlos was their Chicken Enchilada. Oh man let me ya, that was one good Enchilada!

BLossom said...

What a memory. I grew up in Orange County and love Mexican food. I still can taste Naugle's green burritos...LOL! I was sad when they all closed.

I liked that California Burrito from TDC also, and I went to one in Anaheim, I believe. It was near a freeway ramp, and I am thinking it might have been the Harbor/Katella one, but that's been so long and I don't live in OC anymore, so geography is fading a little.

Shannon said...

I worked at Taco De Carlos also ...Fountain Valley store back in 77-79 or so

was one of my 1st jobs :)

Anonymous said...

dec. 1981 taco decaros was next door to carls jr. on dyer road santa ana next to the 55 freeway. I managed the carls jr. and my future wife worked at tdc. we met and 3 years married. we became aqainted when they closed the door forever and soon taco bell was in its place. the tdc. employees were brought into my carls jr. so in a way im glad carl decided to close shop, or I never would have met my wife.

Anonymous said...

i worked at TDC in the early 80's, at the one in Ontario Ca, on Mountain Ave. It was an OK job, i remember the food as being pretty good, myself! loved the cal burrito, and the machaca...the one thing that turned me off, was that the management was always trying to "recruit" their young workers to join their church...you pretty much HAD to, if you wanted to advance...not cool....

Anonymous said...

This brings back memories. I worked at the Taco de Carlos at Warner and Brookhurst in 1977. I too remember The California and Machaca burrito's. They also had a dessert item called the Apple Empanada. The best description I can provide of it is sliced apple chunks wrapped in dough, deep fried with powdered sugar sprinkled on it.

The decription of their fries from another poster is spot on. I believe another fast food restaurant from that era (Pup N' Taco) served the same type of fries.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks for the comment. When I read comments by people who say they worked at the FV location I have to wonder if I might've seen any of them when I was a little kid.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the Inland Empire Taco De Carlos locations in Ontario, on Mountain Avenue, and in San Bernardino, on South "E" Street, near Inland Center, in the 1970's.

John from Fontana (back then)

Anonymous said...

Thank God for this website! I grew up in FV and so many of my friends look at me blankly when I ask them if they remember Taco De Carlos. I was still pretty little when it closed down, but it's permanently ingrained in my memory.

I now have proof that it existed!

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only person in existence to remember Taco de Carlos. I am speaking of the Ontario, CA location on Mountain Ave. just one block South of the 10 FWY. It was streetside in a Toys R Us center, right next to a Carl's Jr. restaurant. I was a kid at the time...my family went there maybe twice, and that was it. They hated it. I was always somewhat intrigued by it, but couldn't tell you why! Also, I remember the regular Carl's Jr. served a deep-fried burrito which always seemed odd to me as seemingly that was Taco de Carlos's job! P.S. Does anyone remember Carl's Jr. serving hot dogs? I do, because they had tomatoes on them, and I thought that was very strange to me as a child. Anyhow, thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

There was a Taco De Carlos in Ontario, California in the same shopping center as Toys R Us and FedMart on Mountain Ave. just south of the 10 freeway. There was a Carl's Jr. next door to this particular location as well. I remember as a kid my parents would get food at Taco De Carlos and then we'd head next door to Carl's Jr. so I could get a Happy Star (I guess I didn't like Mexican food as a kid). I'm sorry to say I never got to try the food at Taco De Carlos. It sounds like something I'd enjoy.

I did however get to eat at Naugles quite often when I was in high school and still miss that place to this day. Their steak fajita tacos were killer!

Todd S.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA

ChristianZ said...

We're getting a lot of comments here. Thank you to everyone for sharing your memories. Keep 'em coming!

Stretch said...

I also attended Fountain Valley H.S. from 1977 through 1981. My friends used to work at Carl's Jr. and we used to go to TDC next door all of the time. My Mom still lives behind Gemco (funny how that reference still works and no one has a clue when I say Sam's Club) and I miss Naugles like nobody's business. Other memories are running across Bushard to the walk-up Pup 'n' Taco during lunch during high school.

ChristianZ said...

You remember all the great old Mexican fast food places . . . and Gemco. Thanks for leaving a comment

Anonymous said...

ok, heres something to wrack your brains... what where the little deep fried chimichungas called at Taco De Carlos, and how were they made, what kind of dough was used for the outside.... help please! i also remember pup n taco, naughles, thanks for any info!

Anonymous said...

A lot of memories here. I worked a TDC 243 on Euclid next to the 91 Fwy in Anaheim from 78-81. We were the closest one to the main office. And I still miss those California burritos!

Anonymous said...

Way to keep this forum going for TWO YEARS!! Awesome! I too remember the happy star with the sombrero, but never ate there (too young to drive at the time and my parents hated fast food). I always wondered what happened to TDC, thanks for collecting all the interesting stories.

Special props to the guy who mentioned Pup n Taco and Naugles (the latter was taken over by Del Taco, no?).

Off-topic, but everyone mentions Gemco, what about Fedco??

ChristianZ said...

Yes, I remember Fedco. It lasted longer than Gemco, but I think people mention Gemco here because it was close to a Taco de Carlos.

Also, we have separate entries for Pup N Taco and Naugles here.

Anonymous said...

YES ,,THANK GOD IM NOT CRAZY ..I DO REMEMBER EATING AT THE TDC IN ONTARIO BACK IN 79 /80 ,THEY DID HAVE TWO LOCATIONS THE ONE ON MOUNTAIN IN THE FED MART/ TOYS R US SHOPPING CENTER ,WHICH IS NOW A GHOSTOWN,BUT THE CARLS JR IS STILL THERE,AND THE ONE ON 4TH STREET WHICH THERE IS STILL A CARLS JR THERE AS WELL ,BUT WHERE TDC WAS ITS IS A DONUT /CHINESE FOOD PLACE NOW!!!COOL MEMORIES!!

w6uyf said...

My wife, son and I ate at Taco de Carlo's restaurant several times. I remember one I went to in Costa Mesa on Bristol Ave. And another one in Santa Ana also on Bristol, but further north and close to a Carl's Jr. I loved the food there...it was better than similar food at Del Taco or Taco Bell. I was sick over it disappearing.

Kirsten said...

There was also a TDC in Redlands on Redlands Blvd next door to Carl's. I just mentioned TDC to a friend last week who looked at me like I was crazy, he'd never heard of it. My dad didn't even remember and he also grew up in Redlands. I wonder if it only existed in SO. Cal?

Anonymous said...

Hello All and happy Memories. I worked after school at the tdc in Glendale Ca. which is now a del taco... the food was good except the play doah fries which where a product called Frispo the hideous orange shirts left a bit to desire...... the chain did not take off

Cloraann said...

TDC was a major part of my life as I worked & later managed Bristol & Warner from Sept of 1974 until I was promoted. When they closed I too went to the Jrs. That was a time of great memories and awesome friendships that I still cherish today.
NOTE:I just made the California Burritos for my family last month. We eat them monthly. I also make the Machaca burritos on a regular basis. Yes, I do remember how to make them and I am able to duplicate the taste.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks for the comment. Good to hear that someone is still making TDC food.

MrPlayerHater said...

Wow...thank goodness for this forum! I was just driving home and thought "I have to talk to Carlos" and I suddenly remembered Taco de Carlos from my youth. I used to go to the one on Beach Blvd in La Habra (At Lambert, I think?) And, omfg, I miss Naugles.

ChristianZ said...

Thanks for the comment. Did you also see our Naugles coverage?

Anonymous said...

I worked at the Mountain Ave TDC in Ontario back in 1977. One of my first jobs after high school. To this day I crave, and can still taste those chunky beef machacas! How I would like to have the exact receipe for those! And that fry making machine! The amazing thing about that, is the fries were pretty good. I'm in Miami.Fl. now, and we have nothing here but Taco Bell's, very depressing. Unlike one of the other posters who worked at that store I don't recall any church recruiting back in 1977, But I do recall that the management at that store was the worst I've ever experienced. No people skills whatsoever. One day I went on my lunch break and just never went back. I just let them mail my final check. I often use to wish that Carl Karcher would come in and see his so called managers yelling at employees, throwing things at them in front of customers no less. If that was the calibre of people he hired to run his TDC operation, it's no wonder it folded. However the food was original, and quite good.
Don
Miami,FL

Anonymous said...

Tac De Carlos, Gemco, Zodies, Fed Mart, Market Basket, Builders Emporium, Sacket & Peter's, Alpha Beta, Pioneer Chicken, Standard Brands, The Big 10 Q. Hehehe, carry on.

Anonymous said...

I too, worked at the Warner and Brookhurst TDC Unit 92 in '80 until it closed. I closed the one on Harbor and Macarthur after that. I had so much fun working there and did like the food! The nachos were great but loved the taco salads. I still know and keep in touch with people from the TDC days. TDC was just ahead of it's time. Green Burrito was a terrible eventual replacement.

Hey, does anyone remember Muchies Pizza? We used to get free awesome pizza all the time.

Anonymous said...

Yes. We use to get rewards at Neiblas Elementary School in Fountain Valley and we would go to the one on Warner. We went there after school for lunch I just loved the California Burrito. It was a beef burrito filed with Jack cheese green and chillies, then deep fried. Our friends were a bit out of control and we were kicked out of Taco De Carlos many times..

Anonymous said...

I remember the one in Ontario, always thought it was a bad dream until I saw this picture while surfing the interwebs. As far as Naugals goes, that place had the best strawberry shakes. They got taken over by Del Taco I believe.

ChristianZ said...

I hope you read our extensive Naugles coverage here. Six different entries.

Anonymous said...

my high school band played there for the resturants grand opening and as a fundraiser we sold coupens. the tdc was in la habra,ca next to a carls jr. my friend we to eat there couldnt make up his mind so he ordered a hamburger and they cussed him out and told him to go next door. its now a del taco..

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed eating at the Taco de Carlos @ Avery and Marguerite while working at the Mission Viejo post office. It was next to the I-5 north onramp. There was a Carls Jr. located behind it. The Carls Jr. is now a Jack-in-the-Box and the Taco de Carlos is a Del Taco.