The dateline is San Bernardino, where followers of Gustavo Arellano's taco chronicles know is the home of Mitla Cafe, the Route 66 roadhouse where Taco Bell reportedly got its original taco recipe. It's also "the oldest continually operating Mexican restaurant in the Inland Empire," we've been told before. From the New York Times dining pages:
Admit it, tortilla-chip fans: you are curious about Taco Bell Doritos Locos tacos, introduced in March. These salt bombs take the usual fast-food taco filling and stuff them inside a giant orange-dusted nacho-cheese chip. They have been so successful that the company has just introduced a Cool Ranch flavor.
But to truly grasp the significance of these creations, the taco must be eaten in the company of Gustavo Arellano, a journalist and Orange County, Calif., native who is perhaps the greatest (and only) living scholar of Mexican-American fast food. And preferably, you will eat it here, in the birthplace of American fast food, while he explains to you precisely how the Frito, America’s first corn chip, was copied from the Mexican tostado, then evolved into the Dorito and eventually the Tostito.
He has just published “Taco USA,” an absorbing account of how a few foods (salsa, tacos, chili, tequila) from the complicated and enormous cuisine of Mexico managed to slip into the mainstream of American taste.
“It’s not exactly a feel-good story, except maybe for the shareholders of Frito-Lay,” he said, gesturing out to the empty storefronts and cash-only gas stations that line the streets.
He's taking questions today on the NYT website.
New York Times photo outside Mitla Cafe: Axex Koester