Chalk this up as a loss for the burgeoning fast-food-trying-to-go-fast-casual movement: After just 14 months of operations, U.S. Taco Company will be closing its doors. According to Nation’s Restaurant News, the restaurant suffered from lower foot traffic than expected—despite its location right next to Huntington Beach’s boardwalk—and trouble obtaining an alcohol license, throwing a wrench in its “urban taproom” plans.
The fast-casual experiment run by Taco Bell Corp. tried to create a punk rock vibe that never quite seemed natural and their tacos that tried to riff on regional American favorites came off as more patronizing than clever. The Brotherly Love had carne asada, grilled onions, and poblano queso; the Wanna get Lei’d boasted grilled mahi mahi and something called “Polynesian sauce;” and the “1%er” was a semi-confusing lobster-roll-turned-twelve-dollar-taco. As it turns out, the amount of people willing to pay $12 for a taco that wasn’t made by Wes Avila (and doesn’t have foie gras in it) is more niche than expected.
But that doesn’t mean Taco Bell has given up on the fast-casual game entirely—they just probably won’t be coming back to the L.A. area any time soon. The company recently announced a booze-filled Taco Bell Cantina that’s going to open in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood later this month. And Taco Bell’s hyper experimental Banh Shop in Dallas—not that there’s anything experimental about banh mi itself, but Taco Bell jumping in the game is way out there in left field—is hotter than ever, or so Yelp would indicate.