Whatever Happened to That Fast-Food Place Naugles?

Naugles tacos in its hey-day

Naugles tacos in its hey-day

Whenever I write about restaurants and food, as I have the past two weeks, it sparks more conversations than any other topic, including Old Vegas and “The Mob” (whatever that is …). Remember the weeks of chatter surrounding White Castle? Or the Monte Cristo sandwich? So, hey, let’s talk restaurants again!

Ah, Naugles, that bastion of late-night burritos, the originator of the Bun Taco (a Mexican Sloppy Joe crafted with seasoned ground beef), and something called The Cup—a yummy cup of meat and cheese, beans and cheese, or a combo featuring all three slurped down with a spork. Naugles fans, wipe your chins.

Some who were around Vegas in the 1980s-1990s might think of Naugles as the predecessor to Del Taco, but Naugles was launched in 1970 in Riverside, California, by Dick Naugle (a former Del Taco partner) six years after Casa Del Taco was born up the interstate in Yermo. Nevada claims some interesting data points when it comes to both chains. Supposedly, Las Vegas once boasted the most Del Tacos of any city, but Naugles was first to arrive here. Still, by 1989, Del Taco had bought Naugles and its 225 stores; four in Nevada (three in Las Vegas, one in Carson City) were the last to be rebranded as Del Taco, around 1994-1995. We lost our last Naugles just as we scored our first Lollapalooza? That makes no sense!

Like many things dear to the heart of Gen X, Naugles has a cult following. That could be chalked up to nostalgia, or it could be something more substantial. For example, Naugles was the spiritual predecessor to the spate of today’s “fresh, fast casual” chains, as Dick Naugle took pride in the fact that his grub was freshly prepared—something novel in the world of 1970s fast food. So deep is the love for Naugles that SoCal food blogger Christian Ziebarth wrangled its abandoned trademark back from Del Taco, has deconstructed and reproduced many Naugles menu items, and relaunched the brand at one ridiculously celebrated shore-front Huntington Beach location, at least through summer.

Today’s Naugles food is on-point to what I remember, and nothing beats scarfing down a crunchy taco with the waves breaking behind you—except, perhaps, that some employees I met said that they hope to reopen in Las Vegas in the future. Yes, please!