I love Taco Cabana. There is nothing better at two in the morning than a bean & cheese taco
on a hot flour tortilla smothered in excessive amounts of pico de gallo. Unfortunately, I don't live within 1500 miles of one. These restaurants are usually found in strip malls in the USA west of the Mississippi
, and are most common in Texas
One of the best things about Taco Cabana is its unlimited-access salsa bar, which includes pico de gallo, mild salsa, spicy salsa, roasted tomato salsa, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and lemon and lime wedges. The stores also have a tortilla-making machine at the counter, where you can watch as freshly made small flour tortillas flip their way down a spiral baking platform inside a glass case to emerge, steaming, below. And you can get margaritas from their Slush Puppy style machine for a couple of bucks.
Some of the stores are not as good as others. I went to one in Las Vegas (now defunct) that absolutely sucked. The stores in New Mexico are good and they have, in addition to the usual suspects, green chile and fresh jalapenos on the salsa bar.
There used to be another restaurant chain, Two Pesos, that was almost identical to Taco Cabana (except that Two Pesos didn't make roasted chicken, aka "Chicken Flameante"), but no longer. Taco Cabana successfully sued Two Pesos, a Houston-based Mexican fast food chain which had basically stolen Taco Cabana's concept. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court. As a result, there is no more Two Pesos.
What Taco Cabana is like, and Two Pesos used to be like, from the court ruling, Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc. (91-971), 505 U.S. 763 (1992):
Taco Cabana describes its Mexican trade dress as
"a festive eating atmosphere having interior dining and patio areas decorated with artifacts, bright colors, paintings and murals. The patio includes interior and exterior areas with the interior patio capable of being sealed off from the outside patio by overhead garage doors. The stepped exterior of the building is a festive and vivid color scheme using top border paint and neon stripes. Bright awnings and umbrellas continue the theme.
...Taco Cabana's trade dress was protected if it either was inherently distinctive or had acquired a secondary meaning, judgment was entered awarding damages to Taco Cabana. In the course of calculating damages, the trial court held that Two Pesos had intentionally and deliberately infringed Taco Cabana's trade dress."
Taco Cabana is a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq using the symbol "TACO".