¿Yo quiero Taco Bell? Even if you don't, you might after reading this fun fact: Tacos came to the U.S. in the early 1900s, along with the Mexican migrants who worked in the mines and railroads. But fast-food chain Taco Bell made the product a household name. The hard-shell tacos that Americans used to think represented all tacos are a specific kind called taco dorado.
"The taco shell is crucial for taking Mexican food outside of Mexican communities," said food historian Jeffrey Pilcher in an interview with Smithsonian magazine. "Corn tortillas do not keep very well. ...If the taco shell is fried beforehand, you can wrap it up in plastic and keep it sitting around until somebody wants to use it."
In the 1950s, Glen Bell, who owned a few hamburger joints in Los Angeles, noticed the popularity of Mexican food with non-Mexicans and opened a taco stand called Taco-Tia, using ingredients Americans were familiar with, like ground beef, lettuce and shredded cheese. The first Taco Bell (named after Glen himself) opened in 1962. Franchising made Bell rich and spread the taco gospel around the U.S. In 2021, Taco Bell had 7,791 locations worldwide.