Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Is a taco a ‘Mexican-style’ sandwich? Indiana judge rules yes

The Famous Taco restaurant in Fort Wayne, Indiana will be allowed to open a second location thanks to a judge’s ruling this week that “tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches.”

Mexico native Martín Quintana, 53, has been trying to open a new The Famous Taco for about three years, but the shopping plaza he wanted to move into had a written commitment with local officials limiting what types of restaurants could open there.

The Famous Taco can now move forward with its plans to open a second location in a "sandwiches-only" strip mall.
The Famous Taco can now move forward with its plans to open a second location in a “sandwiches-only” strip mall. (Google Maps)

It could only be “a sandwich bar-style restaurant whose primary business is to sell ‘made-to-order’ or ‘Subway-style’ sandwiches,” and could not have a drive-thru, outdoor seating or alcoholic beverages.

After the nearby Covington Creek Association told Quintana that his proposal ran afoul of the stipulations — that exclude fast-food chains like Arby’s, McDonald’s and Wendy’s — a legal battle began that finally ended with Allen Superior Court Judge Craig Bobay’s ruling on Monday.

Allen County includes the county seat of Fort Wayne, a city about 190 kilometers northeast of Indianapolis with about 270,000 residents, making it Indiana’s second-most populous city.

“The Court agrees with Quintana that tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches, and the original written commitment does not restrict potential restaurants to only American cuisine-style sandwiches,” Bobay wrote.

“The original written commitment [of 2019] would also permit a restaurant that serves made-to-order Greek gyros, Indian naan wraps or Vietnamese banh mi if these restaurants complied with the other enumerated conditions,” the judge added.

Quintana sued the Fort Wayne Plan Commission in December 2022 after it denied his proposed amendment that would specifically allow his restaurant to offer made-to-order tacos, burritos and other Mexican specialties.

“It kind of became an argument of … is a taco a sandwich or not,” a representative of Quintana said when the suit was filed.

“I’m glad this thing is over,” Quintana said Monday. “We are happy. When you have a decision like this, the only thing you can be is happy.”

Quintana said he came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1988, working first as a farm worker in California picking grapes, olives and kiwis before entering the restaurant business in Michigan, then moving to Chicago and finally Fort Wayne in 2001. He opened The Famous Taco nearly seven years ago.

At the new location, which Quintana expects to open in two or three months, customers will choose their favorite toppings for tacos, burritos or tortas assembled by the staff.

“You know, that’s a sandwich,” Quintana said of tortas. “That’s bread. That’s a sandwich. We go through a lot of those.”

With reports from USA Today, Proceso and The Journal Gazette


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