Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Del Taco opens first branch in McKinney
Del Taco prides itself on fresh food at a reasonable price.
Some Southern California flavor rang through McKinney this week to the tune of slow-cooked beans, grated cheese, and lengthy drive-thru lines.
Del Taco, a Mexican fast-food restaurant that pairs burgers with burritos, opened its newest location Wednesday at 1614 W. University Dr. in McKinney.
Though its fellow West Coast chain, In-N-Out Burger, beat it to the area, Del Taco received the same jam-packed reception from Collin County foodies.
"I love Del Taco," said Amy Jackson, one of the restaurant's first customers. "It's real food -- it's not processed -- so it's fresh and just different. Memories of having it as a kid make it even better."
Jackson and her friend, Erin Gordon, ventured from Frisco for a long-awaited revival at their childhood-favorite taco joint. Gordon grew up in Los Angeles, so Del Taco was to her like Taco Bell is to most Greater Dallas residents.
"I like Taco Bell, too," Gordon said. "It's just comfort food for me, though, because I grew up with it."
Jackson spent her youth in Grand Prairie and frequented Del Taco. That location is now a pawn shop; so until Wednesday, Jackson could no longer get her favorite taco on trips home. Her several-mile drive to McKinney was certainly worth it, compared to her alternative.
"My sister lives in Phoenix, and they have Del Tacos there," she said. "Every time I visit her, we go to Del Taco."
The Frisco friends discovered their mutual adoration for Del Taco through recent Facebook posts as Gordon counted down the days until the grand opening. They weren't the only area taco enthusiasts in the loop, though, evidenced Wednesday by the continuous lines curving outside the restaurant and around the parking lot.
Guests can stick to a typical Tex-Mex selection of burritos, tacos and "Macho Nachos," or mix it up with variety meals that blend the taco choices with fries, burgers and shakes. Sizes come in small, medium, and macho.
Its combination of Mexican and American foods is likely unfamiliar to most Collin County residents, but it won't be for long. Paul Murphy, chief executive officer for Del Taco, said the restaurant's Texas roots are just starting to grow.
"We'll be opening a store in Texas roughly once a month during this year and next," Murphy said. "It just took us awhile to get our foundations set. We have stores in 16 states, but we're just now moving east."
Del Taco is set to open a location in Plano in September and eventually two locations in Frisco. Though the restaurant comes from California, its brand has taken on a new look in Texas. The company implemented a different logo -- the classic Del Taco buzz-saw sun and rolling hills with contemporary colors -- and innovated its dining room with new seating arrangements and visuals such as "Chicken Grilled Here" signs. The McKinney location joins two others in California to open with the prototype, the company's first brand update since the 1990s.
"We did some market planning for the Dallas Metroplex area, and McKinney came up as a really great place to do business," Murphy said. "It met all the brand numbers and has grown a lot over the last several years, so we're excited about being here. It just seemed like a natural fit for us."
Del Taco prides itself on fresh food at a reasonable price. It grates the cheese, grills the chicken, and slow-cooks the beans every day, yet sells tacos for 59 cents.
Cecilia Baeza, now a certified trainer in the area, has worked for Del Taco for 26 years. She was at Tuesday night's VIP opening to make sure guests received proper service.
"People love us," she said. "They know who we are and they keep coming back."
As a mini-Mariachi band played the Macarena between tables, employees hustled around with food orders and prepared for a busy first day with one message in mind: Del Taco is here to stay.
"A lot of companies aren't growing right now, but we are," Murphy said. "I think that says a lot about this place. It's an exciting time for Del Taco."
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