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You got a story about Taco Bell on Pacific Ave?
My town, Santa Cruz, has changed in a generation. The working class shoved out, no one can afford to work and live here— you know the drill.
One totem of old-school Santa Cruz was the “Taco Bell” on the naughty, naughty corner of Pacific and Laurel. It was a drive-through fast food joint, as well as a walk-in. Unlike most Santa Cruz establishments, it was open ALL the time. After bar hours. After games. After the after.
And now it’s gone. Torn down this summer.
Everyone went to this Taco Bell, even if they didn’t want to. You wanted to score? Get in line. You had a car full of kids after Varsity practice? You know where you’re ending up. You showed up in town after 8 hours of driving in the fog? Taco Bell was there for you. It was the only place to go, when you HAD to go.
Some keen street historian decided to start a Reddit thread to run the highlight reel. End of an era, baby. People posted their stories.
They are so good, and so memorable, I had to republish the best of the best . . .
Taco Bell RIP
— Someone once asked me for food as I was leaving. Without hesitation I pulled out a burrito from the bag. He punched me in the face, stating that he saw me act too quickly, thinking that I was pulling a weapon out of my bag. (Sigh).
— I, too, was punched in the face at Taco Bell.
— Pulled in the drive-thru around 11PM, saw two guys sitting behind the drive-thru menu, shooting up. Without thinking, I was like, “Oh shit, my bad!” and turned off my headlights to give them privacy and drove off without ordering.
— Circa 1980 (during my impoverished youth) you could buy a taco for small pocket change.
— I know of someone who left from the bar on the corner across the street— yes the Asti bar— then drove to the drive-thru and rear-ended a cop in the line.
— Back in high school, Flavor Flav played a show at the Catalyst. My buds and I craved cheesy double-beef burritos at Taco Bell. Flavor Flav's bouncers blocked the entrance, but we convinced them we were with him, yaaa boiii! We ordered, fooled around, and had a blast. Later, we met the real Flava Flav, spilled the beans, and laughed it off. Legendary night! RIP to our Taco Bell – demolished for new construction, mixed feelings. Memories forever!
— The one time I went there, I waited in the drive-thru for 20 minutes only to have the cashier come out to the line of cars, right as I was about to order, and say they’re done for the night: “There’s no more food.”
He then proceeded to take off his hat, light a cigarette, and walk down Laurel Street into the night.
— “A god among mere mortals.”
—Night around 2:00 AM, I saw the manager literally kick someone out the front door.
— God, I had amazing times at closing there 😂. I'm pretty sure I know exactly who you're referring to, “Killer Kev.”
— Walked in with my college friend, and as we were getting ready to order, the guy at the counter yelled that he had saw both of us on Grindr.
— Had a friend get a DUI in the drive-thru.
— Methheads and machetes circa 2015!
— Yep. My mom worked there when she was pregnant with me. Well, that’s the story.
— Manager held up the line to discuss getting drugs with a friend he was giving money to, to go get them. Fight broke out outside after that. Everyone stayed in line. I ate my burritos, walked outside, drunkenly vomited on the sidewalk in front of police. They kept rolling.
— It was by far the best-tasting Taco Bell, because whoever owned the franchise was too cheap to replace the original 80s kitchen equipment in the back. Taco Bell's old steam tables and tortilla steamer made everything taste way better.
— I had my first car accident in the Drive-Thru. My girlfriend was in the passenger seat changing into her bikini, and let's just say I got distracted and hit the car in front of me. He was actually cool about it. He’s like, “Well, your piece of shit car hit my piece of shit car; I think we're good.”
—You could order drugs in the drive-thru.
— I was tripping balls on some potent windowpane, around 16 years old, and ended up there. Eating was NOT an option; it took me about 36 years to ask for a cup of water. I couldn't even drink. I sat there for another decade or two, watched a guy vomit on the floor next to me. Everyone inside turned and stared at me like I could solve their problems. I said nothing. They stared. Still I said nothing. Finally my voice cracked, and everyone unfroze and went about their business like nothing happened.
— On Halloween it would get packed with people dressed in costumes and getting drunk. I remember one year sharing a taco and taking shots with a man dressed as Hunter Thompson, in full character. Good times.
—My two dear friends met while working at the Laurel and Pacific Taco Bell 12 years ago, and are now married and have a kid. Taco Bell, where true love flourishes!
— One time on my 17th birthday, I prank-called in an order for 300 chalupas. Then I ended up desperately craving a chalupa, so I went in to order one and they were scrambling. In the back, I could hear shrieks of mercy because, “Some guy just ordered 300 chalupas.” Still sorry for Taco Bell on Pacific.
—Your chalupa order put them out of business. 😭
— Oh, so many interesting moments . . . I worked downtown as a youth and I used to scrounge up my change to get myself a Crunchwrap before catching the last #35 bus to Ben Lomond. My fave employee was the large, bald man with the scar on his face. He’d always get my order up first, even if there was a huge line. Killer Kev.
—Great pee spot.
— One time, I was working at the local cardroom on Pacific (about a hundred yards from Taco Bell). We had a semi-regular player come in and start playing 21. He bought in for somewhere around $600, and over one hour ran that total up to well over $30,000. During his session he took some breaks to the Asti bar, and had a slight buzz going. He wasn't drunk by any means, but he was feeling it.
He cashed out his stockpile of chips and put the cash in a brown paper bag. He decided to head over to Taco Bell to grab some dinner. He was gone for 45 minutes before he returned and began playing again without the bag in sight. We assumed he’d put it in his car or dropped it off at home. We didn't think anything of it.
Fifteen minutes into his new play session, he started freaking out, having realized that he'd left his money at Taco Bell.
Now for anybody who doesn't know, this Taco Bell was the sketchiest location in Santa Cruz. Homeless people would camp out all day in the front courtyard and drug deals would be going on constantly. They were even employees who were arrested on shift for dealing drugs while at work. One of the worst places you'd want to accidentally drop anything.
The player rushed out, explaining what happened. We all got up and went to the door as he ran across the street praying for a miracle. After a tense minute or so, we see him come back, the paper bag in hand. Around $32,000 in cash had sat unnoticed on the floor of that courtyard for over 20 minutes.
— Some dude pulled a knife on us in the little courtyard area looking like he was going to mug us. We were not sober. We kinda looked at him in shock, and then he said, "Just kidding," and left and turned the corner. We called the police and then continued eating our chalupas.
— It was the first place I got food before I toured campus. Got a Polaroid of the flowers outside because I was so excited. My mother’s homeless boyfriend (ex and also dead) bought weed while we waited 30 minutes for our food despite being the majority of the people in line.
— Heard the Bell got shut down for health violation after particles of fecal matter were found in the refried beans . . . I don’t know if that was rumor or truth.
—In the early 90's, I lived around the corner from the Bell, and 3 of my housemates contracted Hep A. They had all eaten at Taco Bell and forever more we knew it was because of shit in the beans!
— Santa Cruz legend has it that a disgruntled employee reached their breaking point, so they pooped in the beans. ☠️
— I worked there for a bit. The amount of chaos that went on everyday was insane. We had a whole book, a list of people to kick out on sight. I'd have to ask people to stop doing drugs in the patio, parking lot, and in the bathrooms. People have thrown food at me, behind the counter. When waiting outside for my manager to show up for the morning shift, I would receive threats. I've witnessed way too much.
— I got a burrito there and the employees didn't bother folding it. I remember eating it on the sidewalk and vowing to never go back.
— Damn, sometimes you just gotta fold it yourself.
— We were going through the drive-thru while someone was trying to rob the front. Awkward.
— Used to live nearby and had friends visit from Philly. Took them there around 12am and some person pulled a Waffle-House-moment by picking up a chair and throwing it at the employees cause they were given a medium Pepsi instead of a large.
We continued eating as this brawl went down.
— One time on Halloween my friends and I were downtown. I was the Hulk; painted with green body paint. It started raining pretty hard this year, and everyone starting storming into nearby businesses. Of course, Taco Bell was one of the few that were open. At first there were a reasonable amount of people in there. But, soon enough we were crammed into Taco Bell like a can of sardines. My green paint was dripping, rubbing off on everyone’s costumes. I was trying to be mindful, but more and more people kept crowding. Before I knew it, half the paint had came off onto random customers. Good times at Taco Bell.
— A friend OD’d on black tar in the bathroom around the back of the building in the late 90s (He lived). Classy.
— We had friends at UCSC and we’d come to Santa Cruz all the time to party. One time it was around noon, we were hung over, nothing went right. We got a parking ticket by the beach. We wanted to eat and go home. We decide to eat at the tables outside the Bell for some fresh air. As we started to perk up a bit, it happened, a bird shit on my burrito! We swore we were never coming back to Taco Bell or Santa Cruz . . . I live here now.
— I once saw two men come in, one of whom was shirtless and appeared to be bleeding from multiple wounds in his torso. They asked for napkins and water. As the unbloodied man cleaned the other’s wounds, he said, “He tagged you pretty good,” to which the other replied “Yeah, but I got his wallet.” Employees unfazed.
— I remember catching the Metro bus and skating Santa Cruz and we’d always stop at this Taco Bell. It was the real Santa Cruz experience back in the day.
— We used to do stick ‘n’ poke tattoos in the front of Bell while we were buying drugs from some of the employees. Miss that place, great spot to hangout and meet locals. We were 13-16 at the time and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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