The Best Mexican Food Restaurant in the Country Is… Taco Bell!?!?

Did you hear the news that Taco Bell is …. wait for it …. wait for it… ‘America’s favorite Mexican restaurant’.  Yes according to a poll done by The Harris Poll for Yahoo! Finance Taco Bell was voted the best Mexican restaurant in the country.  When we read the headline our minds were flooded with a series of questions:

  • Taco Bell?  Really?
  • Is Taco Bell really considered Mexican food?
  • Are there any Taco Bells in Mexico?
  • What exactly is the definition of “Mexican Food” anyways?

First off this is not a rant against Taco Bell per se – hey who doesn’t love a 2 AM Fiery Doritos Locos Taco!  Throw some Fire sauce on it and if its freezing outside you will nice and toasty.  Or you can opt for some new favorites like the Mexican Crispy Chicken Pizza and the Naked Egg Taco.  Their food is cheap and comes with lots of cheese and other delights we expect out of a fast food chain.

The poll shows that the runner ups were Chipotle and Moe’s Southwest Grill were the runner ups this year – apparently Chipotle was kind of the hill the last couple years.    Apparently the little issue of Chipotle fan’s getting sick off their food was an issue (fair weathered fans!).  There aren’t too many national “Mexican” food restaurants which appears to be the focus of this poll.

So lets start with a first crucial question – are there Taco Bells in Mexico?  One would assume the experts in Mexican food (that would be the Mexican people) would love America’s favorite Mexican restaurant at least a little bit – right?  Well according to some sleuthing done by Vice – the answer is no.  Taco Bell can be found in as far flung places as Guam and China and a total of 22 countries but not Mexico.  One quote in the Vice article stands out…

Problems arose from the get-go. The wildly inauthentic names of several popular Taco Bell items had to be changed because Mexican customers didn’t understand what exactly they were ordering. For instance, the crunchy taco—an anomaly in Mexico—had to be re-branded the “Tacostada,” thereby evoking the crunchiness of a tostada in taco form.

That was back in 1992 and the saga has only continued with more failed attempts and a las no stores in Mexico as of now.  Perhaps the big stomping foot of American pop culture and the influx of people from Mexico will eventually get the Mexican people to understand that Taco Bell is “America’s Favorite Mexican Restaurant” and it should be there as well – like it not…

So all this begs the question – what exactly IS Mexican food?  Is it a variation of all kinds of popular foods that has “shells” and “tortillas” instead of bread slices and buns sprinkled with some hot and spicy sauces?  After doing a little diggingf and research a common authentic Mexican meal typically consists of items like:

  • Soft-shell tacos
  • Limes, onions, cilantro
  • Vegetables
  • Fresh white cheese
  • Pico de Gallo (combination of tomatoes, cilantro, onions)
  • Limited shredded beef and chicken
  • Flan (dessert)

Authentic Mexican food does NOT typically have the following:

  • Hard shell tacos
  • Melted cheese
  • Lots of beef
  • Black beans
  • Wheat flour
  • Sweet Corn

The list could go on but you get the idea – there is a big difference.  So its pretty clear that Taco Bell is really Americanized Mexican food.  I am sure the Italians and Chinese would be able to relate as we have Americanized Italian and Chinese food dishes as well.  But that Americanization happened long ago and those countries aren’t as close as Mexico is to the our border so its not really thought of too much.

One thing that is common in Mexico is the jalapeño pepper.  Its widely produced and used in cooking.  Its also popular in Tex-Mex cuisine and other Americanized Mexican food dishes.   Spicy dishes are certainly a part of the Mexican diet which has become a common component of Mexican food in America.  Fun fact: according to All Roads Traveled burritos are not as Mexican as you probably think.

For anyone who lives relatively close to Mexico – e.g. California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona – Mexican food restaurants are ubiquitous and you can get all types of Mexican food including authentic, Tex-Mex, green chili based, etc.  If your truly hungry for something close to “authentic” Mexican food you would likely not go to Taco Bell.

Well thats our rant for the day – time to head out for some Mexican Pizza and Nachos BellGrande and a little Fire sauce to make it interesting.