I remember the first bacon cheeseburger I ever ate. It was at a People’s Truckstop in Berea, Kentucky. I’ll never forget it as it still stands as the finest I ever tasted.
I remember the first bean and cheese burrito I ever tasted. It was at a Taco Tico in the little railroad town of Corbin, Kentucky. I was 10 years old.
Since that day I’ve eaten Mexican food all over the South as well as Texas and Mexico but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Taco Tico.
I wrote an article titled Death Of A Small Town Mexican Restaurant where I lamented the closure of that august establishment. That loss still haunts me.
I recently discovered the last Taco Tico in the state of Louisiana; it’s sitting on the side of the road in Kenner, a small town just west of New Orleans.
I had business at Louis Armstrong Airport earlier this week so I scheduled a visit to Taco Tico to see if I could relive the joy of being a kid getting turned onto Mexican food for the first time.
Taco Tico was birthed in Wichita Kansas in 1962 by Dan Foley. A decade later the concern had gained a serious momentum that saw a hundred of the restaurants open all across the United States.
The Taco Tico in Kenner is the last one standing in Louisiana.
We pull into the parking lot just after lunch rush. A lone diner is inside enjoying an order of queso and a basket of fried tortilla chips. We order a crispy taco deluxe and a bean and cheese burrito, pay the $2.92 and retire to the dining room.
The bean and cheese burrito is a spot-on duplicate of the one I enjoyed as a child. Same waxy, chewy tortilla; same pureed pinto beans and the same bland yellow cheese. Since I never eat burritos I feel safe in saying this is the best one I’ve had in a long time.
The crispy taco is of similar quality. The carne molida is a fine grind of beef with little flavor, leaving that task to the cheese, sour cream, lettuce and green onions. We sample all four available hot sauces and each one tastes of marinara and little else.
Service is friendly. The lone counter girl hails us as we walk in and hollers “hurry back” as we leave. Would that all food workers in New Orleans were as cordial.
Taco Tico is on hard times. The founder, Dan Foley, passed away back in July (he had long since sold his interest) and the state of Kansas has closed numerous locations due to tax violations. A mighty chain that once saw over a hundred locations has seen it’s empire dwindle down to nearly nothing.
Nowadays when a rural kid is sampling his first bean burrito or crispy taco it’s far more likely that Taco Bell, that odious, fast growing chain, is the purveyor. We’re all slightly diminished by this unfortunate turn of events.
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