Keep it cheap

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Fast food on the fancy: Del Taco invited us over for a fancy meal, reserved table and all. It felt like a trap, but that didn’t stop me and SN&R intern Jaime Carrillo from riding out to see what they were offering.

We arrived at the Del Taco in Natomas somewhat unsure of what was about to happen. They treated us like royalty and it wasn’t right—I come to Del Taco to be forgotten by the world. But we plunged ahead and ordered the new Platos, the cause for all of the hubbub.

We had many choices—the Platos are a mix-and-match situation, high-end plates with a choice of an entree (a wet burrito, “Street Tacos,” et al.) and a choice of two sides (rice, beans or corn). Depending on what you get, prices range from $6.99 to $7.99. They also come with a bag of chips and some fresh salsa verde.

None of this is what you’re looking for at Del Taco, which is known as the best place to buy low-grade burritos by the pound when you’ve only got $3. But the push for a plated meal makes sense if you’ve been to a Del Taco in the last few years. The restaurants are remodeling for more modern looks and they’ve been pushing fresh ingredients in their messaging for a while now.

But getting Del Taco because you’re cheap, misanthropic and drunk remains the heart of why anybody I know loves the place, and thankfully, that remains.

As for the Platos themselves, Jaime actually enjoyed his quite a bit, saying that his tacos were actually as good as a restaurant-style taco. He imagines that he could be buying a lot of Platos in the future.

I agree with Jaime on the key points: My wet burrito tasted just fine and certainly didn’t skimp on any important bits of meat, cheese, sauce and sour cream. The salsa was surprisingly tasty and the sides were actually more interesting than the rice and beans I often get at real Mexican restaurants.

But will I be buying these with my own money? I don’t see that as a possibility in the slightest. If I’m going to Del Taco, I’m going for the cheap goods—the $1 nachos, the grilled-chicken taco, the bean-and-cheese burritos. If I know I can get three or four items and keep my tab lower than $4, I’m going to. Period.