In-N-Out Burger wasn't the only California-based fast-food chain to make its way into North Texas last year. With far less fanfare, lines and tears, Del Taco also opened several stores, starting with a location in Denton. There are now several in the area, the newest one having just arrived in Hurst.
Local aficionados of fast-food Mexican fare (and they do exist; if Foursquare had been around when I was a kid, I totally would have been mayor of Taco Plaza) will recall that this isn't Del Taco's debut in North Texas. But the chain went through a series of financial woes, and local stores shuttered. This is its big comeback.
Del Taco has two things going for it: The drive-through window is open 24 hours, and it comes with a bit of mystique -- the secret sauces, supposedly, are epic; the tacos, you've heard, just kill it; and the burgers are the bomb. But once you go, the mystique quickly fades and you wonder why you listen to people.
The menu is made up of tacos, burritos, burgers and nachos. At the Hurst store, as at all locations, you order at the counter, then wait for your number to be called. Curious about the "fish taco" ($1.89), I made an inquiry to the friendly cashier regarding the type of fish used.
Cashier: "No, I don't think so."
Me: "A nice salmon?"
Cashier: "It ain't salmon, I know that."
Me: "Seared tuna? I love seared tuna."
Cashier: "I think it's Alaskan. Do you want one?"
It was actually a fish stick, apparently an Alaskan fish stick. It reminded me of the school cafeteria fish stick. And on fish stick days, I would bring my lunch.
The bland, breaded, unidentifiable fishlike substance came double-wrapped in flimsy corn tortillas with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and a secret sauce that was no secret at all. The mayo was easily detectable; it was the best part of this taco.
I also tried a steak taco "Del Carbon" ($1.89), served street taco-style with cilantro and onions, and again wrapped in two corn tortillas. The meat, cut into little chunks, was tough and flavorless, and whoever sprayed the red spicy hot sauce on it only hit one side, giving it an uneven, inconsistent flavor. Hats off to the person who chopped the onions, though. They were neatly diced into small portions.
Much has been made of Del Taco's burgers; I cannot share the enthusiasm. Upon the cashier's recommendation, I ordered the Double Del burger ($2.99), topped with shredded lettuce and tomato slices. Everything was stuck to something: the two thin, well-done patties were stuck to each other; the melted American cheese was stuck to the bun; and the poppy-seed bun was stuck to the plate, married to it by the melted cheese that had eked out of the burger and hardened between the bread and plate. Prying it free, I ate about half the burger and couldn't help but think it tasted like a Big Mac, thanks to the Thousand Island-like secret sauce and overall Big Mac flavor profile. But this was more like a discount Big Mac, because it included neither pickles nor the mushy piece of bread in the middle.
A small order of crinkle-cut fries ($1.59) was soggy and salty. I tried another side, jalapeño rings ($1.99), thinking they'd be onion rings with a jalapeño batter. But they were actually sliced and battered jalapeño peppers. It's just like that Yes song The Ancient: Giants Under the Sun, in which the title is never said and you wonder why it is called that. (It's an 18-minute song -- Yes had plenty of time and opportunities to say, "giants under the sun.") But back to the jalapeños: The batter was crispy and the peppers were hot.
I gave dessert a try, picking the caramel cheesecake bites ($1.99), served two per order. Two "fried egg roll things" (I'm a sucker for fast-food cashiers' descriptions of menu items) came filled with a rich cheesecake filling and warm caramel sauce. They were so enjoyable that I purchased two more and ate them on the way home.