The California-based fast food chain Del Taco recently opened a location on Manatee Avenue in Bradenton, and, in doing so, kicked off a war of words. A nearby Taco Bell updated its marquee to read, "SHES A 10 BUT EATS DELTACO." Del Taco clapped back with, "SHE MUST LIKE BETTER TACOS." Let the battle begin.
A Mexican-inspired restaurant, Del Taco was founded in 1964 in California and offers familiar items like tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more. The Bradenton restaurant is the company's fifth Florida location, and Del Taco brand president Chad Gretzma is thrilled about expanding in the Florida market.
“Florida is one of the fastest growing areas of the country, so there is a lot of demand for new restaurants," says Gretzma. "We have the combination of great Mexican flavors at an incredible value and convenience, and there’s just been a lot of demand and a lot of excitement."
At Del Taco, everything is prepared fresh and in-house.
“When you go into one of our restaurants, you’re going to see grills," says Gretzma. "We’re grilling fresh chicken and carne asada every day. You’re going to see a bean pot where we’re making our beans from scratch every day. You’re also going to see 40-pound blocks of cheddar cheese where we grate our own cheese every day."
Del Taco also offers an extensive value menu, with 20 items under $2.
“Everyone wants fresh food and food with a lot of flavor, but with today’s inflation, it’s kind of a challenge to go find that in one combination, to get that great price and great food," says Gretzma. "We like to call it 'better Mex' or 'quick service-plus.'"
As a food writer, I may get to sample dishes from all around the Sarasota-Manatee area, but I have a weakness for fast food—even more so if it comes in taco form. I live in convenient proximity to a Taco Bell, a privilege I take advantage of regularly, so I was intrigued to give this new spot a try.
Gretzma recommends the restaurant's signature Del Taco ($1.99), one of their “epic” burritos ($6.59-$7.79), and his favorite item: the stuffed quesadilla taco ($2.59-$3.89). A chicken quesadilla ($4.99) is my go-to at Taco Bell, so I throw in one of those, as well, for research purposes.
I’ve heard that the lines are long at the new location, so I plan my excursion outside of traditional dining hours. At 3 p.m., there are no cars in line at the drive-through and I scoot in and out in no time.
As I unpack my treasures, I’m struck by how each item is stuffed full of ingredients. The queso burrito is the size of a Chipotle burrito and must weigh more than a pound. And while my commute home was lengthy, everything is still warm and melty when I arrive.
I start with the soft Del Taco, which is made with ground beef, lettuce, tomato and grated cheddar. The meat has a bold seasoning, and although it isn’t a revolutionary experience, it is satisfying. When comparing it to my other beloved fast food taco spot, Del Taco has the edge.
The chicken quesadilla is fine, but lacks zip. I’m craving some Baja sauce, but instead find just chicken and cheese. However, the stuffed quesadilla taco is fantastic. Something about a quesadilla folded into taco form feels decadent and over the top. I can see why it's Gretzma's favorite.
But the true star is the loaded queso burrito. I cut it in half to see a cross-section of what's inside and find chicken, pico de gallo, so much queso and crinkle-cut fries. At the sight of the fries, I wonder if I should have perused a list of local dispensaries before making this trip. It looks like a creation one would find at Munchies 420 Café.
But the flavor is great. This isn’t a gourmet, farm-to-table dining experience, but it is comforting, flavorful and lots of fun. There is a time and a place for conscientious dining just as there is for something quick, easy and affordable. Del Taco hits the mark.
Del Taco is open 10 a.m.-midnight daily at 5610 Manatee Ave., Bradenton. For more information, call (941) 567-5216 or visit the restaurant's website. Del Taco will be offering delivery and advance ordering in the coming weeks. Download its app for updates.