Taco Charley (c.1977 – 1982) was a short-lived, but long-missed, California-based fast-food chain. Though their food was similar to (but even less authentic than) Taco Bell’s, nobody held it against them: the chain somehow had a good vibe (helped, no doubt, by good food/reasonable prices). They also confounded expectation by blending cross-genre ingredients, such as offering taco fixin’s served in a hamburger bun (which sold horribly in most locations). In 1981 they introduced chicken burritos and the "Taco Lite" which was a flour hard shell taco. Fast-food aficionados note that they introduced these fried flour tortillas to the US fast-food palette, offering a deep-fried, crunchy flour taco (“taco lite”, IIRC) that was the bomb.
In short, they were like an upscale Taco Bell … (like Del Taco in So Cal) making the real Taco Bell look bad!
TC was a 47 location company with restaurants in California, Nevada and Arizona. They were a wholly owned subsidiary of Calny Corp based in San Mateo, CA. Calny also was a franchisee of 46 Taco Bell locations while owning TC. They also had other food concepts with only one or two locations that never took off. Calny also owned Iowa Meat Packing Company - Calny (IMCC) the supply delivery company for all Calny business locations. So in a few short years, once TC had financially weakened itself after building up its properties (they usually built their stores to their design, an exception being when they acquired Taco-la-Paz in 1979 which had it's own distinct look) TB swooped in and boughted them. (In fairness, this was reportedly because behind the scenes, Pepsico had bought out both companies.) Shortly thereafter, the world experienced the fast-food taco equivalent of a Flaming Moe when TB rolled out flour tortillas.
This editor should’ve checked Google Earth before misremembering the TB at W. Grand & Tele; the building’s overhanging roof and gumdrop-shaped windows are distinctive TC features (cf. Google Images → “Taco Charley”). However, considering TC was defunct by the mid-1980s, we’re not doing too bad …!
Links and References
- Taco Bell, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., will acquire... UPI September 2, 1982