U.S. Taco Co., Taco Bell's Upscale Cousin, Is Here — So Here's What To Expect

If you've been going to Taco Bell in big sunglasses and baseball hats for years because, well, it's Taco Bell, but you can't stop because, again, it's Taco Bell, then your shame-filled drive-thru days are over. Behold, U.S. Taco Co., Taco Bell's upscale fast casual restaurant. Yes, the name sounds like something that belongs on the side of a truck, but the concept is modern, and there's hardly any trace of its cousin anywhere in the food and decor. The first location opened on Monday in Huntington Beach, Calif., but here's what you can expect from U.S. Taco Co. when it takes over the country.

First thing's first: "This is not supposed to be Mexican food," Jeff Jenkins, who spearheaded the launch of the new restaurant, told LAist. There will be Mexican influences, of course, but the menu will pay homage to iconic American favorites, like Philly cheese steaks and Maine lobster rolls. "It's American, but it just happens to be served in a taco instead of a roll or between sliced bread," executive chef Rene Pisciotti said at a preview of the restaurant.

The decor is decidedly more Mexican-themed, with a large Day of the Dead skull affixed against a brick wall and bright, colorful furniture and light fixtures that give the place the feel of a classic Mexican cantina.

According to the LA Times, Jenkins was looking to target the same demographic that has given Chipotle its cult status, young people who want to grab something fast and tasty after a day at the beach, but are conditioned to rule out traditional fast-food chains — the food truck generation, so to speak.

"It's food truck food you don't have to chase," Jenkins told the Times. "It's playful, it's different, it's not about creating the next chain concept."

So what can you expect?

Tacos, Duh

But these aren't your standard chicken, beef, or carnitas tacos. At around $4 each, the signature tacos at U.S. Taco Co. include the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, which consists of crispy Southern-style fried chicken, jalapeno Southern gravy, and roasted corn pico de gallo.

There's also the 1%er, a taco version of the lobster roll, which uses North Atlantic lobster, garlic butter, roasted poblano crema, and slaw. At $9.99, it's the priciest item on the menu.

For BBQ fans, the Not My First Rodeo offers smoked beef brisket, molcajete salsa, slaw, and pickled onions.

While the Southern Squealer has pulled pork, peach jalapeno BBQ sauce, crumbled cornbread, topped with slaw and jalapenos. BBQ + tacos = last meal front-runner.

The Hot Chick is a play on buffalo wings. Crispy fried chicken gets smothered in buffalo sauce and blue cheese, topped with slaw and jalapenos.

Thick-Cut Steak Fries

You won't be able to find many other taco joints that also serve fries, but for such a simple concept, it's also ingenious. A Venn diagram of people who like tacos and people who like fries will probably overlap by 99 percent.U.S. Taco Co.'s steak-cut fries are accompanied by sauces like the jalapeno ranch dip and the ghost chile ketchup.

Leche Shakes

As it inevitably goes head to head with fast casual giant Chipotle, U.S. Taco Co.'s milkshakes will undoubtedly be its trump card. All three flavors sound like you died and went to heaven: Friggin' Fried Ice Cream is vanilla ice cream, caramel, topped with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal; Shut Your Pie Hole is vanilla ice cream, strawberries, and pie crust pieces; and Coco Loco is chocolate ice cream, Mexican spiced chocolate sauce, and chocolate flakes.

Images: U.S. Taco Co./Facebook, U.S. Taco Co.