Did I love it? Yes, if only for nostalgia's sake.
It’s not as if we didn’t have Taco Bell in Gresham; I just never went. I always thought Taco Bell and Taco Time were on par with each other, not realizing the fast food joint with the green cactus sign was a rinky dink regional chain. It’s where we’d eat as kids and where we’d drive for lunch in high school.
Now, the appeal is obvious to me: fried food. They’ve diversified since the ‘80s but I’ll always associate this Eugene-originated restaurant with crisp bean burritos. A flour tortilla coated with a slurry of mashed pinto beans, wrapped into a tight cylinder and fried crisp more like a giant flauta than a burrito. Plain and simple.
The only side was Mexi-Fries, deep-fried tater tots coated with maybe a little cumin and chile powder. The thing about their frying that I remember is that it was intense, not just crisping but oil-heating until a shell formed on the tots and especially at the ends of the burrito, a treat akin to burnt ends in bbq parlance.
I had to pull over to grab a crisp bean burrito for old time’s sake when I saw a Taco Time on the side of the road in Sandy en route to Mount Hood. The beans were a little al dente, there’s nothing complex about the wrap and the salsa was kind of a mushy but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I was snapped out of my reverie when I overheard a rugged elderly gent going table to table, “Who has the car with Texas plates?” Uh, I did, and being given a rental car with out-of-state plates was a source of embarrassment all week. I was half-scared he wanted to pick a fight with the Lone Star residents in his mountain town (it might’ve been worse if he knew we were New Yorkers). But no, in my excitement to get a burrito I had left the car’s lights on. Two rarities in my life: crisp bean burritos and driving.
Taco Time * 17475 Beers Ave., Sandy, OR