Family Tales: Your Dad’s Perfect Combo Meal

This story is about the last time your father went to the Taco Bell. He had a double chalupa, a bean burrito, a Carmel Apple Empanada, and a diet cola.

The Taco Bell was secretly called Taco Gigante. The chain’s name is a riddle by its founder, Carl K. Laubach, who was a well-known restaurateur.

The burrito your father ate had cheese, beans, lettuce, and a few drips of queso. It was the perfect wrapped food.

But then it all went disastrously wrong for Taco Gigante.

The Taco Gigante burrito had gone through dozens of iterations since it first appeared in 1981, but one of the most popular variations came about in 1999. Called the Taco Gigante Double Wide No Bean Extra Big Yum Yum Dee-lish Dee-lite, the burrito was monsterously big, the chicken was replaced by pork, and cheese replaced the beans — it sounded too good to be true. The removal of the beans was part of Laubach’s marketing genius.

Taco Gigante’s popularity soared after that. In its heyday, the chain was selling the burrito in every store. When a new franchise was opened in Dallas, Laubach’s people there told him they had to include beans.

Laubach called the restaurant in question, complaining about the situation to the franchise manager. When the manager, a man named Johnny Bonilla, told him that it was beans or bust, Laubach responded, “Then it’s bust for Taco Gigante Dallas.”

Bonilla replied, “I will never forget this. The world will curse you.”

Taco Gigante Dallas was closed, and a different restaurant opened at the same location. There was no word for the new restaurant’s name — only “.?.” (Laubach himself never again mentioned Dallas in polite company .)

Later that same year, your father was told the secret name of Taco Bell: Taco Gigante.

In 2008, a Taco Gigante employee used soap to write “HELP ME,” in bold, red letters on Taco Gigante Des Moines’ front window.

There were a few theories about why Taco Gigante had to close. None had to do with beans or burritos. No one could really explain it, as there had been no explanation given for anything ever in the restaurant’s tangled history. Laubach wrote a memo detailing that the name “Taco Gigante” didn’t exist and that “Taco Gigante” was simply “Taco Bell” and that all employees would never again say the name “Taco Gigante” and that time is bumpy circle.

The Taco Gigante chain, Laubach said, was “just a secret name” used “to throw off the lizard people running the IRS.”

So much for business acumen.

Family Tales: Your Dad’s Perfect Combo Meal