Although today isn’t Taco Tuesday, it is National Taco Day! October 4 is a day to celebrate the delicious Mexican dish sold around the world. Several restaurants, including Taco Bell, also have promotions and deals to save you money on tacos.
Tacos were created in Mexico long before the Spanish came. In the centuries since they were invented, people have used meat, chicken and seafood in tacos, with various toppings like salsa, lettuce, tomato, sour cream or a special taco sauce.
Here’s a look at the holiday and the deals to be had on National Taco Day 2017.
1. Americans Are Over 4.5 Billion Tacos Last Year
The history of National Taco Day is unknown, like most food holidays created within the last decade. National Day Calendar reports that it began in 2009, but they couldn’t trace it to a specific creator.
Nevertheless, there is a National Taco Day website, created by PartyExcuses.com. The site notes that Americans ate 4.5 billion tacos in 2016. In other words, that’s 490,000 miles of tacos and could weigh up to 775 million pounds, or two Empire State Buildings.
2. Taco Bell Is Offering a $5 National Taco Day Gift on National Taco Day
Taco Bell is celebrating the holiday by offering a $5 National Taco Day Gift Set. The pack includes Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch, Fiery Doritos Lacos Tacos and the Crunchy Taco all in a gift-wrapped limited edition wrapper and special box.
Of course, Taco Bell is hardly the only place offering deals on National Taco Day.
If you love Tijuana Flats (and who doesn’t?) you can get tacos for $2 each. It’s 50 cents extra for steak tacos and the deal excludes fish and Flat Outrageous street tacos. The chain is also offering $2 Mexican drafts.
On the Border is offering mini crispy tacos for 50 cents each. If you show up at a Chuy’s restaurant dressed as a taco, you get a free meal. If you don’t, you can get $1 crispy beef tacos and a $1 off Mexican beer.
You can also find deals at locally-owned restaurants by searching National Taco Day on Facebook.
3. Taco Bell Was Really Founded by a California Man Whose Last Name Was Bell
Taco Bell was really founded by a California man whose last name was Bell. Glen W. Bell Jr. founded the Mexican restaurant chain in 1954, according to the company. However, Bell. got his start in the restaurant business in the late 1940s, when he opened a hot dog stand in San Bernardino. In 1951, he started selling crispy-shell tacos from the side window.
Bell decided to start a taco stand called Taco-Tia, selling tacos for only 19 cents. By 1955, he had three stands. After selling those, he moved to Long Beach, where he opened for more restaurants. By 1978, when Bell sold the company to PepsiCo in 1978, Taco Bell had 868 locations, The New York Times reported.
Today, the company is part of Yum! Brands, along with KFC and Pizza Hut, and there are 7,000 Taco Bells.
Bell died in January 2010 at age 86. He is survived by his wife Martha, three sisters, a daughter and two sons.
4. The Origin of the Taco Remains Unknown, but a Historian Traced it to the 18th Century in Mexico
The origin of the taco remains unknown, although there is evidence that it could predate the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Minnesota, told the Smithsonian Magazine in 2012 that he traced the taco as we know it today to 18th century silver miners, “because in those mines the word ‘taco’ referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore,” he explained.
“The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century,” Pilcher told the Smithsonian. “And one of the first types of tacos described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos. So the taco is not necessarily this age-old cultural expression; it’s not a food that goes back to time immemorial.”
Pilcher explained that he found the first reference to tacos in the U.S. in a 1905 newspaper, as more Mexican immigrants began arriving. At the time, Mexican food was seen as being “street food, lower-class food” and the taco was associated with a group called the “Chili Queens.”
“The Chili Queens of San Antonio were street vendors who earned a little extra money by selling food during festivals,” Pilcher explained. “When tourists started arriving in the 1880s with the railroad, these occasional sales started to become a nightly event. Tourists came looking for two things in San Antonio—the Alamo and the Chili Queens. Mexico was considered a dangerous place. The Chili Queens were a way of sampling that danger, but not at the risk of being robbed by bandits.”
5. The Los Angeles King Taco Chain Started Out in a Converted Ice Cream Truck in East Los Angeles
The successful King Taco chain in Los Angeles has 20 locations throughout Los Angeles County today, but the chain had a modest start. Raul O. Martinez launched the company as a taco truck, using an old ice cream truck.
In a 1987 Los Angeles Times profile, Martinez said his friends told him he was crazy. In 13 years, King Taco grew to a $10 million company with 10 taco stands and restaurants, plus three tack trucks.
Martinez died at age 71 in December 2013, the Times reported.
“He was an innovator, he had a vision, and he made it possible,” former employee Bernice Sand told the Times. “Before he came around, nobody used to sell pork tacos [al pastor], so he started to sell that at midnight outside of a bar on Brooklyn, which is now called Cesar Chavez Avenue. We didn’t have food trucks back in the ’70s — back when he started.”