Where old-school Taco Bell buildings still exist in Southern California – OCRegister

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When the oldest Taco Bell restaurant in Orange County closed in September, it took a bit of the company’s history with it.
The restaurant was built in Taco Bell’s original architectural style, meant to reflect early California buildings with its stucco, brick, red tile and rounded arches.
The look was created by architect Robert McKay for the first Taco Bell restaurant, which opened in Downey in 1962. As the chain grew, it built hundreds of restaurants like it before phasing out the style.

This Taco Bell restaurant built with the chain’s original design at 669 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach closed on Sept. 7, 2021. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

Taco Bell in Laguna Beach was built in 1967. (Photo courtesy Taco Bell)

Taco Mesa on the 19th Street in Costa Mesa is a favorite of locals and visitors alike for its fresh take on Mexican fast food.(Photo by Eugene Garcia, Orange County Register)

A few of those buildings remain, with three arched windows in front under a sloping tile roof as tell-tale signs. Here’s where to look for them.
Laguna Beach: This building at 669 South Coast Highway dates from 1967. It underwent design changes as Taco Bell, but retained its sloping red roof and stucco brick walls. It made its own history as a hangout of Timothy Leary, a psychedelic drug advocate during the hippie era.
Costa Mesa: This converted Taco Bell has a whole new identity as Taco Mesa, 647 W. 19th St. It’s part of a chain founded by Ivan Calderon in 1992.
La Palma: Johnnie’s Jr. Burgers occupies 7811 Valley View St.
Orange: Another Johnnie’s Jr. Burgers is at 1062 N. Tustin St.
Pomona: Señor Baja occupies the building at 405 E. Mission Blvd.
Santa Ana: The building at 221 S. Grand Ave. is now Mos 2, part of a burger chain.
Santa Fe Springs: This drive-thru at 13198 Telegraph Road is now Alberto’s Mexican Food.
The very first Taco Bell still exists, but not where it was built. Dubbed Numero Uno, McKay’s structure was acquired by the fast food chain and moved from its original address at 7126 Firestone Blvd., Downey, to corporate headquarters in Irvine in 2015. It remains in storage.
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