Taco Cabana is a unique restaurant, starting in 1978 from a single location in an old Dairy Queen in San Antonio they brought they idea of Drive Through Tex-Mex across a good portion of the Southern United States. Taco Cabana was so successful early on they even experienced a few imitators by the 80s such as Two Pesos who would later be famously sued by Taco Cabana. By the 90s the family involved with founding T.C. had left the company and after going public the chain experienced enormous growth. Expanding beyond Texas into New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and possibly a few other states.
A few things set Taco Cabana apart from their competitors, first off the restaurants were open 24 hours a day 7 days a week offering breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, their drink menu included alcoholic beverages like beer, and margaritas, next the food was ready just as quick as any other fast food joint, finally they hooked you with the fajitas. I sincerely don’t know what it was about Taco Cabana’s fajitas but they were straight up delicious, and while not gourmet quality, they were cheap and well complimented with seasoning which is really where fajitas come from. While I don’t have as much information on the expansion of Taco Cabana I do know that they experienced lots of Luther’s BBQ like issues. Including changing ownership, mismanagement, poor quality control among franchisees, and over expansion. Taco Cabana was likely over 200 stores at one point but is now much closer to 100. The out of state stores did not last with Florida being the first market T.C. left, they would slowly trickle out of Georgia and Arizona too, leaving us with Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico as of 2021.
The over expansion problems weren’t limited to out of state locations. Even after the infamous Two Pesos chain was purchased and their locations converted to Taco Cabana, new stores continued to pop-up. At one point there were over 20 Taco Cabana locations in the Houston suburban area. As issues with quality control, and declining sales increased Taco Cabana stores in Texas started to close. For the most part these closings were quiet and the building was well disguised. However as of late issues seems to only be increasing for the chain. The current owner Fiesta Restaurant Group who also hold Pollo Tropical, closed 19 stores in early 2020. Today we’re taking a look at one of the locations that closed, 2535 South Highway 6 Houston, TX. This location opened in 1994 after Taco Cabana had taken over the Two Pesos location inside of West Oaks mall. Prior to 90s this side of Highway 6 and Westheimer had been mostly undeveloped. This new development also brought a Venture, Builder’s Square, Service Merchandise, and many other new retailers. Unfortunately this development would flop with Venture then Kmart failing along with Builder’s Square and Service Merchandise. For many years this shopping center operated without any major anchors, eventually Burlington Coat Factory and Floor and Decor, along with a few other minor tenants would occupy the empty space. Although Burlington would move in 2018 leaving the center partially empty again.
When looking this location up online it had pretty negative reviews. Most customers either had issues with the food or the response or the staff. If you look up reviews from Taco Cabana locations that are currently open you’ll see lots of similar complaints, bland and boring food, dismissive staff, and increasingly higher prices. While I do understand that prices rise over time, the quality of Taco Cabana’s food continues to drop. The last time I ordered Fajitas I couldn’t even finish them they were so dry, it was like eating a jerky taco. The short sightedness of corporate failings is apparent in this store too. Just as the T.C. closed this center began to take off again with Alief ISD purchasing the former Venture/Kmart to re-purpose as training space. If Taco Cabana could have looked forward a bit it’s likely they could have easily mothballed this restaurant until the new center opened. However as of 2021, its just an empty eyesore on the property.