Mini-Review: One of Amapola Rico Taco’s locations in San Bernadino is noteworthy to the history of tacos in the United States

Amapola Rico Taco on old Highway 66 in San Bernadino. Photo by Jay Keyes.

On a stretch of what was once “Route 66” in San Bernadino, Amapola Rico Taco inhabits the same site as Glen Bell’s first taco restaurant, a taco shop that was nonsensically-named “Taco Tia.”

Yes, the origins of Taco Bell can be traced to this tiny building situated directly across the street from Mitla Café, the eatery whose owners Bell befriended before stealing their taco recipe and audaciously setting up shop across the street to compete against them.

The current ownership of this small taco shop is a family descended from founder Rosina Gallardo who came to the U.S. from Zacatecas, Mexico, and opened the first Amapola Rico Taco in March 1975. Her family currently operates four other locations of the same name in the Inland Empire. They have no connection to Glen Bell and thus serve far less offensive fare.

As part of my pilgrimage to Mitla Café last year, I stopped here and ordered a “Taco de Chicharrón.” My curiosity was rewarded with a dirt-cheap taco made with a bagged corn tortilla wrapped around springy pork skin with crispy edges and a zippy salsa roja with a nice burn despite being a tad on the watery side of saucy.

This taco alone is not worth a special trip, but it checks all boxes of good, cheap, and fast. If you’re in the neighborhood and want to eat at a property that (for all the wrong reasons) was important to popularizing Mexican cuisine in the United States, this is an easy diversion.

Taco de Chicharrón. Photo by Jay Keyes.

Food/Décor/Service: 3.8/1.8/NA

Taco Scores: Taco de Chicharrón (85)

Jay Recommends: Taco de Chicharrón

Amapola Rico Taco596 N Mount Vernon Ave, San Bernadino, CA 92411; Monday-Friday from 9:30am-8:00pm, Saturday-Sunday 8:00am-8:00pm; (909) 884-3006;

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