The Beginnings Of Great Mexican Food In The Mojave Desert

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This blog entry might seem a bit unusual even for me but the subject hit me as I sometimes drive around the southwest, so here we go, hometown food establishments in the Mojave Desert that made it big.

Del Taco:
I have always noticed that there are lots of Del Taco fast food restaurants around and many of my Facebook friends that have moved to a non-Del Taco part of the country occasionally post something about their yearning for Del Taco food. Many people do not know that Del Taco is a child of the Mojave Desert.  In 1961 the first Del Taco opened its doors to the public in Yermo, CA (no longer in existence, it is called Tita’s Burger Den today) by owner Edward Hackbarth.  That same year, the owner bought out Taco Tia’s in Barstow and also called them Del Taco, the previous owner of Taco Tia, Glenn Bell went on to build the Taco Bell empire.  For those that remember the Naugles fast food chain, Del Taco also bought them out, the owner Dick Naugle actually was also an early partner in the early Del Taco history.  

It took five weeks and two days and $12,000 to build and open the first Del Taco, on the first day Del Taco made $169.  In Del Taco’s infancy, mexican fast food was something new, first the fast-food restaurant sold only tacos, a year later the demand for Mexican food rose and the chain added burritos.  In 1966 the first franchise opened in Victorville and the rest is history.  The chain operates over 550 locations in 18 states in the U.S.A., with the majority of their restaurants in the West Coast states, California, Oregon, and Washington.  The chain also exists in ten other states, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma. There are also a few Del Tacos located in the Detroit area of Michigan.  Las Vegas, Nevada has the most Del Tacos of any single city and California has the most Del Tacos of any single state.

Santanas:
On my other trips around Southern California I have noticed that I am starting to see many Santanas Restaurants popping up, here we go again with another Mojave Desert success story.  In the year 1986 Don Arturo Santana was looking to open a restaurant to offer authentic mexican food and he found a building that was formerly among other things a Dairy Queen to open his new business.  He was the inventor of the famous “California Burrito”, and in the year 1996 Don Santana sold the restaurant to Arturo Castañeda.  He was the one to open 24 hours to give a better service to Yucca Valley.  Due to the high demand, Arturo opened a second restaurant in 29 Palms.  In the year 2002 he open another restaurant in the city of Sun City and in the year 2005 Arturo decided to open another restaurant since there was no other restaurant like his in Joshua Tree.  In 2006 he opened another restaurant in Chula Vista then San Jacinto, Corona, two in Riverside, Cathedral City, three in Palm Desert, Indio, Coachella, Hemet, Azusa, Pomona and Palm Springs.

Do you think that Santanas will be another Del Taco success story? Right now Santanas is only about 5% of the Del Taco empire as far as number of restaurants.  In Yucca Valley there are two Del Tacos but Del Taco #321 sits in view of Santanas #1. 

The other Mojave success story that I personally know of that does not exist in the Mojave anymore is Mario’s Italian Café, originally started in Yucca Valley they grew to seven locations in the Coachella Valley, though they are no longer in the Town of Yucca Valley where they originated they have had great success in the Coachella Valley.

Do you have a hometown success story?  Please let us know your thoughts. 

Take It Easy – Mojave

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Mojave About Mojave

For the purposes of this blog I call myself Mojave because of my love for the Mojave Desert. I have lived in the Yucca Valley area of the Hi-Desert since 1976, I have always loved our Mojave Desert. My appreciation for the Mojave has grown even more over the years. I am a Career & Technical Education teacher and coordinator at the high school level as well as a part-time college instructor. I also currently serve on the Town of Yucca Valley Planning Commission. In my spare time I enjoy researching desert facts, exploring the desert, geocaching and enjoying the many animals that keep my wife and I very busy.


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