There are plenty of us who were first introduced to the wide world of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine by visiting their local Taco Bell as a child. The words we saw on the menus there—taco, burrito, nachos, and the like—are all common knowledge to us by this point, but you might be surprised by what the earliest versions of these foods looked like, and how Taco Bell helped to change the common definitions of these foods. We rounded up eight of the chain’s most popular offerings, and tracked down what the origins of their names are.
Founder Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, Calif. in 1962, and by 1970 there were 375 restaurants throughout the country, many in locations that had never before been home to restaurants selling tacos and burritos. Their Americanized interpretations of these foods, which actually have roots in Mexico, became accepted as the standard, and in many ways they still are today.
For example, did you know that a real gordita is a deep-fried packet of corn-based dough with fillings? It bears no resemblance to the version sold at Taco Bell, which is essentially a taco with flatbread instead of a taco shell, but when we think of a gordita, Taco Bell’s version is usually the first that comes to mind.
So read on to wise up about the authentic versions of the foods you’ll find on the menu at your local Taco Bell. From chalupas to tostadas, we’ll not only look at the origins of these foods, we’ll translate the words themselves. Some make perfect sense, others, like burrito (which translates to ‘little donkey’) don’t make much at all. As for the MexiMelt… well, you’re on your own for that one.