Taco Bell is swapping chalupas and gorditas for "poblano crema," seafood, and smoked brisket — at one location, anyway. As promised back in April, the fast-food chain is ready to unveil its fast-casual concept, U.S. Taco Co., this Monday in Huntington Beach, California.
According to a press release, the test concept will offer "the best of America in a taco," featuring a menu of 10 punnily named tacos flaunting various influences: The $10 "One Percenter" taco features lobster and garlic butter slaw atop flatbread, "Brotherly Love" recreates a Philly cheesesteak inside a flour tortilla, and the "Wanna Get Lei'd" features grilled mahi mahi and "Polynesian sauce." (Aside from the 1% taco, most others are in the $3.25-$4.75 per taco range.) Papas fritas (fries) loaded with taco fillings are available, and milkshakes come with with edgy names like "Friggin' Fried Ice Cream" and "Shut Your Pie Hole." Notably absent: Taco Bell staples like rice, beans, and Dorito shells.
Back in April, Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed said the concept was designed to attract "higher-income foodies" who normally don't patronize fast-food restaurants: Creed called U.S. Taco's potential customers "edgy in how they live their lives but not necessarily in how they eat." In a press release, the concept's executive chef Rene Pisciotti hints at a street influence, calling the taco line-up "food truck food that you won't have to chase." (Notably, there are no Korean-fusion tacos on the menu.) Though the Huntington Beach does not offer alcohol, future locations call for an "Urban Taproom" element serving beer on tap and by the bottle, but no margaritas.
[Photo: courtesy Yum Brands]
U.S. Taco Co. represents yet-another fast-food chain attempting to go more upscale with offshoot brands: In July, Panda Express debuted its Innovation Kitchen, a growing concept that — in a Chipotle-like play — allows for more meal customization. Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, has already spun-off KFC into a fast-casual concept called KFC eleven, and announced earlier this year it would launch Super Chix, a concept inspired by "three food-obsessed friends who believed chicken could and should be better." U.S. Taco Co. officially opens on Monday, August 11.