In case you haven’t heard yet, allow me to be the bearer of good news. Milwaukee is home to a brand new Taco John’s! The region’s newest “West-Mex” purveyor—joining the recently opened Taco John’s locations in West Milwaukee and West Allis—opened earlier this week at 4650 S. 5th Street (on the corner of 5th Street and Layton Avenue).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been looking forward to the airport-adjacent Taco John’s opening since I saw the building going up a few months ago while I was getting food at my favorite Taco Bell in Milwaukee. Oh, did I mention the new Taco John’s is two buildings away from the Layton Avenue Taco Bell? Well, it is. That proximity, and the fact that new TJ’s is also just a block and a half from a QDOBA on Layton, gave me an ambitious and overindulgent idea.
I wanted to set out to build a “dream meal” entirely composed of Mexican-style food (yeah, yeah, I know it’s all Americanized versions of Mexican food) sourced entirely from restaurants located in a four-block stretch of Layton. Tuesday morning, about 12 hours after learning metro Milwaukee’s latest Taco John’s had opened, I did just that. Honestly, I’m not really interested in hearing about what you think I did right or wrong with my selections. Instead, I invite you to make your own Mexican fast food dreams come true. Anyway, here’s what I did.
Stop 1 — Taco Bell
I started the calorie-laden excursion at Taco Bell, the easternmost establishment on the list. There was no line in the drive thru, which allowed me to obtain the first third of my “Dream Bites” meal trilogy in no time. While adjusting for the meal components ahead of me, I bypassed my Taco Bell favorites like the Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito, my recent go-to in the Fiesta Veggie Burrito, and the old reliable Burrito Supreme in favor of a versatile crowd-pleaser.
Yep, I got a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. And of course I also got a Baja Blast. When asked if I wanted any sauce, I opted for the best of the bunch…Hot Sauce. I readied the Blast, put the paper sack in my Rachael Ray branded insulated bag, and headed a few hundred feet west to the next stop.
Stop 2 — Taco John’s
Exactly 33 seconds after leaving the Taco Bell drive thru, I was in the parking lot of the brand new Taco John’s. Since it was among the very first days of the location’s existence, the drive thru line was a little longer than my previous stop. No worries! My order wasn’t too big and I wouldn’t be traveling much further. In total, I was still in and out in about five minutes flat.
I love the Taco Bravo, but it hits similar notes as the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. And though delicious, I felt as if the aptly-named Super Burrito was a little too excessive of a choice based on what I knew was ahead of me. TJ’s hardshell tacos are a fav of mine as well, but far too brittle for this mobile mission. So, with all due respect to Taco John’s and its array of excellent entrees, I focused on two specialties that I couldn’t get renditions of at the other two spots. You know I got an order of the Potato Olés, which is the best mainstream fast food potato offering out there in my opinion. And figuring some commenters might ask about dessert, I threw in a Churro. My Rachael Ray insulated bag stuffed once more, I headed for my last stop.
Stop 3 — QDOBA
I had the good fortunate of getting a green light as I came to the intersection of Layton and 6th, which allowed me to roll into the QDOBA parking lot just as my phone’s stopwatch hit 69 seconds (nice). This would be my first and only walk-in experience. Sure, I could have expedited the process by ordering all this stuff with a mobile app, but where’s the fun in that? I’m old school…meaning I don’t fully understand how that stuff works. So into the QDOBA I went to complete my self-anointed holy trinity.
On the way in, I noticed Taco John’s corporate isn’t messing around with its marketing tactics! I know most people don’t share this opinion, but I wholeheartedly think QDOBA is better than Chipotle. Maybe it’s because I had QBODA first, but I don’t suspect it is. It’s just good!
Usually I go with some type of burrito (chicken, vegetarian, or Impossible “Beef”), but not when I’m also picking up shit to eat from two other nearby fast food restaurants within a 15-minute window. So I went with a single taco with grilled chicken, fajita veggies, salsa roja, shredded cheese, and sour cream. That taco was actually an afterthought, however, as the main reason I was brought there was to get chips, guacamole, and a side of queso.
Bag in hand maybe five minutes later (again, no line to speak of!), I abruptly decided to ditch my initial plan of eating my haul in my car at the MKE Layton Avenue Observation Area. Instead, I would experience the triad in all its glory whilst enjoying the unseasonably temperate mid-November conditions right there on QDOBA’s parking lot-bordered patio. I’m sure such behavior is frowned upon, but I had come too far to test my patience (and the limitations of my Rachael Ray insulated bag) any longer.
I gathered the rest of my goods, found a sunny seat, and laid out the beautiful bounty for both myself and the gods above to look over with pride. It was all there in front of me (except the taco, which I forgot to take out until later in the meal because I’m dumb). So what would I do with this embarrassment of riches…and embarrassment of nutrition facts?
Well, I dipped Potato Olés from Taco John’s into queso from QDOBA. It was just as I imagined it could be!
I enhanced select bites of my Taco Bell CGC with the aforementioned queso, as well as guac from Qdoba, and Olés from TJ’s.
Olés also made their way onto my QDOBA taco.
And I dipped QDOBA’s fresh and flavorful tortilla chips into guac that I enhanced with the addition of Taco Bell hot sauce.
When I wanted to sweeten things up, I took a sip of Taco Bell-exclusive Baja Blast or took a bite of my just-fried Taco John’s churro. It all went as planned. It was a “Dream Bite” on a busy street by the airport, but a Dream Bite nonetheless.
Though I learned an effective three-stop experience is definitely possible, I’m likely to keep future fast food stops to just one place. Maybe two in very rare cases. While trying to (and succeeding in) making a meal that showcased some of the different strengths of three places, I feel I left out most of my favorite standout individual items. That being said, I could envision especially hungover self-constructed combos from two restaurants as:
• Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito, Taco Bravo, and Olés
• QDOBA Burrito with a Baja Blast
• Olés and pretty much anything
At the end of the day, it’s impractical, unhealthy, and actually kind of expensive to put together a combo with items from three different Mexican-inspired fast food restaurants. But a person can dream, can’t they? If you have a dream in your heart and you happen to find yourself on or near Layton Ave. in Milwaukee, you know what to do.