Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Blast From the Past, Naugles Returns

Naugles Corporate Kitchen
18471 Mt. Langley St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708 

For people that are over the age of 40, you have definitely heard of Naugles. Most of all the people in this age group that we encountered are pretty excited about the return of this iconic fast food chain. For people under the age of 40, allow me to introduce you to Naugles, a Mexican fast food restaurant, which probably has a soft spot in the hearts of your parents and other older people you may know, who grew up in California, Nevada, and parts of Missouri, Utah, Illinois, and Arizona.

Naugles was founded by Dick Naugle, who was a former Del Taco partner back in the day. In its heyday, there were 275 Naugles restaurants in operation, in 10 states. Then in 1988, both restaurants were bought by the same company, and merged with each other. This was the beginning of the end for Naugles, as the parent company began systematically converting all of the old Naugles into Del Tacos. By 1994 the conversion was complete when the last remaining Naugles in Missouri were turned into Del Tacos.

Now fast forward to 2010, when my friend, and fellow food blogger, Christian Ziebarth, wrote a blog post about his love of Naugles, and he was taken aback by the avid response that he got from his readers. Christian then started doing pop-ups, featuring Naugle's original recipes, made by people that actually worked there back in the day, and these Naugles pop up events were big hits, and just whetted everyone's appetite for more Naugles. This is when Christian went to court to try to get the Naugles trademark from Del Taco. After a long trial, he finally won the right to use the Naugles logo and recipes, which has paved the way for the return of Naugles.

Christian and his investors have a very aggressive plan in place, a plan that calls for close to 275 Naugles restaurants in the near future, and maybe even more than that when all is said and done. They are looking at spots that will offer a 24-hour drive-thru, which was one of the many innovations that first took place at the original Naugles back in the day. For now, there's only one spot to get your Naugles fix, and lucky for us in OC, it's centrally located right here in Fountain Valley.

This Naugles Corporate Kitchen is open every day from 8 am to 9 pm. They also have a seasonal location, which is operating during the summer months, near the Huntington Beach pier. I have to admit I only remember eating at Naugles a couple of times in the early 80's, as my parents were pretty loyal to Del Taco and Taco Bell. I recall eating at the one on Esperanza Road a few times, and also the one on our way out to the river, but other than that, I don't remember too much about the food, but was excited to give it a try.

Christian recently hosted a blogger meet up at his corporate kitchen in Fountain Valley, and he was even gracious enough to allow my sister and brother in law, who are big Naugle's fans to also attend. I was even more excited when we walked into Naugles for the first time in decades. The bright colors really evoked some long lost memories in me and got me even more excited to try their reformulated original recipes, which now match current health sensibilities, without sacrificing the original flavor of the food. We quickly ordered at the counter and waited patiently for our food to arrive at our table.

Katie's meal was the first to come out, and I was the first one to grab some of her French Fries ($2.50). I love crinkle cut fries, and these were done right. Fried nice and crisp, the crinkle in the fry held just the right amount of ketchup when dipped. Katie was pretty excited by the Combo Cup ($5.00), which is basically a taco in cup form. It comes with beans, cheese, beef, choice of sauce, red or green, and was topped with tomatoes, I swiped a few bite of this as well, and really enjoyed it. It was kind of like a combo burrito, in cup form. To round out her meal, Katie also got the Naugles fan favorite, the Cheese Burrito ($3.00) with green sauce. This is like a quesadilla, but even better, because you get more cheese in each bite. I've heard numerous stories that this is a great thing to consume after a late night of drinking. You'll feel a lot better in the morning after having one of these cheese burritos.

For my meal on this evening, I went with the Combo Burrito ($5.50) and the Naugleburger ($6.00). I feel bad that I did not take a picture of the inside of the combo burrito, but burritos are not really the most photogenic of food items. It was good, as it was full of ground beef, beans, plenty of cheese, and red sauce. It was like a better version of the one I had at Del Taco last week. The Naugleburger was truly something special. I had asked Christian about it, and he boasted that a lot of people feel this is a superior burger to In-N-Out, and I'd have to agree. This comes with double patties, two slices of cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, white sauce, and pickles. The cheddar cheese really stood out here, and I liked the way the white sauce complimented the beef and other toppings. I'll have to get some extra sauce on the side the next time I have this burger. A very fresh, and appetizing fast food burger.

My brother in law was very excited by these Hombre Nachos ($5.00), which could easily feed three people. Plenty of tortilla chips are topped with beans, house made cheddar cheese sauce, beef, and sour cream. Even though I'm not really a fan of cheese sauce, I even enjoyed these, and I was happy that they did not skimp on the toppings here. There's nothing worse than getting nachos, and most of the chips are not covered by anything. This was not the case with these nachos. Every chip was covered with cheese and the other toppings. Very well done nachos at Naugles.

I was pretty full at this point but wanted to give their Original Taco (2.50) a try. It was just as good as the new Del Taco that I'm addicted to at Del Taco. This taco reminds me of the ones I had as a kid. The cheese tastes freshly grated and was plentiful. There's a nice sized layer of beef included here, and the lettuce and tomatoes are both fresh. As an added bonus, if you're eating at Naugles on a Tuesday, they offer two tacos of your choice, a bag of chips, and a drink for only $5. A great deal, and I recommend getting these hard shelled beef tacos.

I have to admit, I left this rebooted Naugles pretty excited by the food, and for what the future has in store for this eventual chain. My uncle asked me if I thought Naugles would be able to compete with the Del Taco's and the Taco Bell's of the world, and my answer is an emphatic yes, as long as the stay true to the concept, and churn out food like we had on this evening. They might have to expand their menu a bit, but this evening proved that people who are nostalgic for Naugles, will be very happy with what they eat here.

Thanks so much for hosting us Christian. We are very happy to see your dream becoming a reality and look forward to seeing how everything works out in this venture. We would also like to thank all the energetic employees we encountered on this evening. You all take great pride in this restaurant, and it shows.

For more information about Naugles, and to keep up with all the latest news from them, go to their website here: http://www.nauglestacos.com/index.php

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