Bueno Ranking

Texas-based taco chain beats out majors to earn best-in-U.S. title

Texas-based taco chain beats out majors to earn best-in-U.S. title

Taco Bueno quesadillas
The rest of the country doesn't know what it's missing. Taco Bueno/Facebook

Feel sorry for those who don't have Taco Bueno in their lives. Market Force Information has named the Mexican fast-food chain, which is based outside of Dallas, as the best in the nation.

More than 10,000 consumers were polled for the study, which also named the No. 1 pizza (Papa Murphy's), chicken (Chick-fil-A), and sandwich (McAlister's) chains.

This is the first year that Taco Bueno earned enough votes to even qualify for the list, and it edged out Chipotle and Qdoba to take the crown. The two Denver-based restaurants tied for first place in 2015, but Chipotle fell to second and Qdoba to fourth this year. Rubio's took third, and El Pollo Loco finished out the top five.

Although Taco Bueno was the favorite in the Mexican food category, it only ranked first in one area: value for the money, a category in which Del Taco was a close second, and Qdoba was last out of the brands studied. San Antonio-based Taco Cabana ranked lowest of the chains studied in friendliness, speed, and cleanliness.

With 175 locations in seven states, Taco Bueno is significantly smaller than much of the competition. For comparison, Chipotle has more than 1,500 locations.

The company began franchising in 2005, and it was acquired by TPG Growth last year. It's mainly found in Texas and Oklahoma, but the chain has been making a franchise push in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Louisiana. Unlike rivals Chipotle and Taco Bell, Taco Bueno does not seem to be currently interested in international growth, focusing instead on expansion in the Southwest. 

Items unique to the Taco Bueno menu include Muchacos, which are tacos made with soft pieces of pita as the shells, and MexiDips and Chips, with house-made tortilla chips and signature guacamole. And let's not forget the super-sized meals, such as the Big Freak'n Taco (a "two-handed beast") and the Wholotta Platter, which packs in a taco, Muchaco, rice, refried beans, a side of queso, and a "chilida" — a chili- and queso-covered enchilada.