One of the perks about living in Southern California is that you’re pretty much never more than a block away from a purveyor of tacos. They might not necessarily be great tacos, or even edible tacos, but they’re still tacos.
Del Taco is one of those purveyors. On Dec. 13, the company began field-testing tacos made with the non-meat substance known as Beyond Meat at 21 of its 560 locations, including the one on El Toro Road in Lake Forest. Though the company’s headquarters is also in Lake Forest, this location is the only Del Taco in Orange County to sell the new Beyond Meat tacos.
The Beyond Meat taco comes in two varieties–the straight Beyond Taco, topped with shredded lettuce and cheese, and the Beyond Avocado Taco, which is topped with lettuce and avocado. The former is vegetarian while the latter is vegan.
“We believe there is a better way to feed the planet,” states the Beyond Meat website. “By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we can positively and significantly impact 4 growing issues attributed to livestock production and consumption: human health, climate change, natural resource depletion, and animal welfare.”
Always willing to try new tacos, I ordered two Beyond Avocado Tacos with medium fries and drink, which all came to about $9–comparable in price to a combo with Del Taco’s regular crunchy tacos. While similar in virtually every way to Del Taco’s usual tacos (which, to be honest, sit somewhere between Taco Bell and Jack in the Box on the grand scale of taco desirability) their taste was quite different.
Which brings up a huge point about who would order these things. Many vegans cringe at the thought of eating anything resembling an animal product, and the whole point of Beyond Meat is that it’s supposed to mimic regular meat. What’s more, while the filling had the same consistency as whatever substance Del Taco usually stuffs into its tacos, it had an odd, bitter quality to it. This was easily cut with either hot sauce or the slice of avocado, but this presented further problems–namely, the thick mass of lettuce that rises to the top of the shell that Del Taco insists on putting in its tacos, which did a great job of preventing any taco sauce or avocado from ever coming close to the filling.
Look, I’m not going to say the Beyond Avocado Tacos were bad, just that they need some work (indeed, Del Taco’s flirtation with Beyond Meat is still an experiment, and may never become standard fare sold at all Del Taco locations). Because as it stands now, the best thing on the Del Taco menu for vegans is still the Epic Cali Steak & Guac Burrito (just order it without the sour cream and with beans instead of the carne asada). That burrito, which when properly veganified comes loaded with beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and Del Taco’s divine crinkle cut French Fries, is a thing of beauty.
Seriously, the best thing about Del Taco was always the fries.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.