The History of 'Taco Tuesday' Is Crazier Than You Think

Ever wonder how and when the term "Taco Tuesday" was coined? How did such a simple Mexican delicacy become a phenomenon for Mexican restaurants across the country? Turns out "Taco Tuesday" dates back to the early 1930s. Sorry millennials...this isn't your creation. 

Gustavo Arellano, a writer for The Thrillist, and a dear friend of mine went out to seek the answer to where this idea came from. 

If you're a regular at your local "Taco Tuesday", or host such an event with your friends, you should note that a popular Mexican food chain - Taco John's - trademarked the term "Taco Tuesday®" back in 1989. 

Arellano noted in his article that Taco John's is infamous for their campaign to keep Taco Tuesday® all to themselves. Therefore, legally speaking if you ever attend a Taco Tuesday® that is not at a Taco John's, they are illegally using the term.


Despite trademarking the term, Taco John's didn't necessarily create it. In fact, Gustavo Arellano analyzed that the phrase was in existence long before the chain got around to filing for its trademark.

Here is a dated outline of the history of Taco Tuesday®, according to Gustavo Arellano's findings for The Crazy Contentious History of Taco Tuesday:

  • October 16, 1933: The earliest-documented advertisement for a Tuesday taco special. White Star Cafeteria at the St. Regis launched a weeklong campaign to let everyone know it sold "Mexican Tacos" on Tuesday -- three for just 15 cents.
  • Early 1949: Albuquerque’s Zia Lounge gave away free tacos on Tuesday.
  • April 13, 1965: A restaurant called La Cucaracha declared tacos were their “Tuesday special". 
  • January 31, 1967: Arizona Daily Star asked readers to "Stop at Pinky's for Tacos"; the next line said, “Tuesday, 6 for 98 cents.”
  • March 5, 1968: Combe's Dining Parlor told readers of the Ogden Standard-Examiner in Utah to “Try our Tasty Tacos Tonight” on March 5, 1968 -- a Tuesday.

It's crazy to think that evidence of a such "Taco Tuesday®" dates all the way back to the early 1930s. It's even crazier to think that one sole restaurant is trying to claim ownership of a term dating way back before it even existed. 

Arellano's article proves that Taco John's wasn't even the first Mexican chain to launch a Taco Tuesday campaign. For those of you interested, a chain called Baker's Drive-Thru takes the honor of making that first national campaign. Their first Taco Tuesday campaign dates to 1976. “Why are Tuesdays special?” read an ad in the November 2, 1976, edition of the Progress Bulletin in Pomona. "They're TACO TUESDAYS at Baker's.

Well there you have it. The answer to "when did Taco Tuesday first start" seems to have been answered. There of course always is that possibility that it goes even further back in time, but this is simply the furthest back evidence the team at Thrillist was able to find. 

The history of Taco Tuesday® truly is CRAZY. Now you know that one restaurant owns the rights to that term, and continues to fight for it. I'd love to hear back from you guys! What do you guys think about Arellano's findings? I absolutely loved learning this information.


Purchase Gustavo Arellano's book "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America" here!

Photos: Getty Images

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