Remembering Taco Lita

Joseph Ross wrote recently with a reminiscence of Pomona’s old Taco Lita stand:

“It was a small taco place, obviously, located on Holt Avenue, not far from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church (though on the opposite side of Holt as St. Joe’s). We would go there a lot when my mom didn’t feel like cooking and bring their awesome tacos home. I have great memories of them as the original comfort food.

“One of my old high school classmates, Steve Julian, now a commentator on KPCC – NPR Radio, actually sent me some little packets of their sauce from what looks like their remaining store in Arcadia, I think.

“My dad remembered that their tacos were 4 for $1, and on Fridays during Lent, when Catholics weren’t supposed to eat meat, they were 5 for $1. Imagine!”

Anyone else want to toss in their 2 cents on Taco Lita?

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  • Ren

    I use to go to the one here in Pomona on the northwest corner of Holt and Washington St. Also if am out that way I will stop off at Arcadia and grab a few tacos for the ride home. Another place that was good was PuP n Taco. That was on the northwest corner of Holt and Towne. Chili dogs for 25 cents. What a deal.

  • Mr Payaso

    That was a long time ago………I can’t even remember when they stopped.

  • DUNCAN FOX

    BACK IN THE 60′S I WENT TO UPLAND HIGH SCHOOL AND WE HAD A ”TACO-LITA” ON ‘EUCLID AVE.’ THAT A LOT OF THE HIGH SCHOOL TEENS ”HUNG-OUT” AT AND ORDERED FOOD ALSO — WE LIKED THE ‘FLAVOR’ OF THE FOOD AND LATER IT BECAME A ”GUS’ BURGERS” ‘DUNCAN’

  • Steve Fletcher

    I also remember the one on East Holt, I think it was roughly across the street from the old Broadside, back in the mid to late ’60s. They had a huge parking lot, and part of it had carport type roofs in case it rained. At one time it was a big late-evening hangout and cruise spot until there were a few fights, then the Pomona PD put the nix on it. They had great food and their burritos were delicious and BIG, too, no one could eat 2 of them. Great hot sauce, much better than any of the current chain Mexican restaurants have today.

    Steve

  • Jeff Gaul

    There was one at San Antonio and Holt in Ontario. Their food was great! While I went to the Ontario store, my wife grew up in Pomona and went to that one. Our mutual favorite — The Lita Burger. If there is still a store in Arcadia, I’d like to know where. There’s always room for large amounts of Taco Lita!

  • http://www.carolynhayesuber.com Carolyn Hayes Uber

    Wasn’t there one next to Grinder Haven on Holt in Ontario? My mom took us there all the time. It was cheap eats, and good, too!

  • Shirley Wofford

    In the early 60′s my family and I lived off San Antonio by the railroad tracks. There was never a problem determining what to feed the family on weekends when I did not want to cook. Taco Lita at San Antonio and Holt provided a full-plate dinner with taco, enchilada, beans and rice for 65 cents.

    For more variety, the Grinder Haven was next door to Taco Lita with huge pastrami sandwiches for 65 cents — and on the southeast corner of San Antonio and Holt, the King Cole market had rotisserie chicken for $1.19. About a block further west on Holt was Kentucky Fried Chicken.

    On Friday nights I went to Stater Bros. market on San Antonio, just north of those fast food places, and filled up the cart to almost overflowing with $25 worth of groceries for the coming week, including fresh meat for every day.

    Since, we have been gone from the area around that intersection a long time, I learned along the way that KFC is gone and King Cole Market burned down. I believe that Stater Bros. and the Grinder Haven still exist in those former locations. I’ve often wondered about Taco Lita — is it still there?

    [I believe the building is gone. Was it where the Burger King now stands, anyone? -- DA]

  • http://doesnt-take.blogspot.com/ Kate Thornton

    I remember the one on Euclid quite well — it was a hangout place when I was at Upland High in the mid-sixties. There was a terrible accident involving a deep fryer and a young employee at one time — I hope not as serious as I remember it. But the place was wonderful. Michael over at Futures Collide in Pomona has some authentic Taco Lita memorabilia at the store on Second Street.

  • Bob House

    Arcadia Taco Lita is south of the 210 freeway, near Santa Anita at 120 E. Duarte Rd.

    Also, see MySpace page here: http://www.myspace.com/taco_lita

    Just missed the 40th Birthday.

  • Bob Terry

    I guess nobody on here is from the “south side” of Pomona. Our Taco Lita was on the corner of Mission Bl. (5th st.) and White Ave. It is still a restaurant today, while across the street is Mission Family Restaurant, which used to be the Hull House. Our Taco Lita had 2 sections to it…on the west side was for the food, and the east side was for ice cream, etc. When my father had a little extra cash saved from Pomona Tile, he would treat me and my brother to banana splits…now that was a treat!

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:
    Yes, the Taco Lita was roughly on the same site as the Burger King on the NW corner of Holt & San Antonio in Ontario. The building was much closer to the street than the BK is now. Before it became Taco Lita I believe it sold hot dogs (possibly as the “Hot Dog Circus?” My father will remember; I’ll ask him and post the answer at a later time).

    As for the Upland location on Euclid, does anyone recall that for a while it was named “Taco Aqui”? I am unsure if that was before or after it was Taco Lita. I believe there were other “Taco Aqui” locations in the area, including one in San Bernardino. It could have been after Taco Lita; the owners may have left the “Taco” portion of the sign and just changed “Lita” to “Aqui” (or vice versa). I do remember a “Taco Thursday” promotion where you got five hard shell tacos for $1. It was extremely popular with families throughout the area.

    [No need to ask your father: It was the Hot Dog Show, there from '51 to '60, when it burned down. Grease fire in the kitchen (really). That's according to Charles Phoenix's book. He also says Taco Aqui on Euclid near the tracks was built in 1961, so Taco Lita must have been a later incarnation. -- DA]

  • Linda Frost

    I have fond memories of Taco Lita in Ontario. My mother loved the Lita Burger, and I liked the tacos. They were five for a dollar in the 50s and early 60s. It tickles my taste buds to think about it. We went there often. I was sad to see it closed and didnt know there was one in Pomona. Grinder Haven and the Hot Dog Show were next to Taco Lita. (When I was a student at U.C.R. in the 60s, there was another Grinder Haven on University Ave in Riverside.) Taco Lita was on the northwest corner of Holt and San Antonio.

    After it closed, we found Mi Taco, which was originally on east Fourth Street across from Galvin Park before it moved to 7th Street in Upland — along with its Matador salad.

    There was also another little coffee shop called the Coffee Cup on the north side of Holt across from King Cole. Anyone have memories of it?

  • JMac

    Loved the Lita Burger! My memories of Taco Lita are tied to the Mission (5th) Ave location. When my mother was pregnant with me, her cravings were tacos. Not sure if the Taco Lita chain was around in 1955, but that’s where my folks say they got the tacos. Yes, I will stop at any taco shop I see to this day.

    Lastly, another fast food location that had split buildings was Fosters Old Fashioned Freeze. The one on the corner of Garey and Willow was a close bike ride. Not only did I get those chocolate dipped soft serves there, but most of my baseball card collection. Loved those penny gumball/card dispensers back then.

  • Steve Julian

    I was stunned recently by the taste of the Taco Lita in Arcadia: it hasn’t changed at all. Same floury tortilla. Same ground beef. Same shredded lettuce. I had the all-meat burrito with the taco sauce, which hadn’t changed either. (I also bought extra packs to bring home and send to Joe in DC.) Also, the interior has the original colors. I can send a photo should anyone desire.

    Speaking of Charles Phoenix, he and I performed in plays together in the mid 1970s at the Gallery Theatre, just east of Euclid on C Street — if that rings a bell for anyone.

    [Great of you to comment, Steve. If you send a photo, I'll post it with this item. -- DA]

  • http://JosephRoss.net Joseph Ross

    Thanks for posting all this, David. It’s great to remember such good stories. Plus, you’re making my mouth water!

  • Bob Terry #2

    I wish that every one of us that commented and remember that food could just load up in a bus, limo, van or shuttle and all enjoy it at least one more time at the last location left…road trip anyone?

  • Jackie Leffingwell

    I, too, remember the Taco Lita on Mission near White. When I worked at General Dynamics in the ’50s and ’60s, a couple of us would take orders from our co-workers and then bring back bags of tacos, etc. For those who didn’t like tacos, they had a great LitaBurger.

  • Gordon

    One more thought on Taco Lita — I thought I was the only one that remembered (and loved) the Lita Burger ?? Not often one remembers a hamburger after 50 years. Linda Frost asked if anyone remembered the Coffee Cup? You couldn’t grow up in Ontario during the ’50s and not remember it. Spent quite a bit time in there….. My brother was a checker at King Cole.

  • David Linck

    Ahhhh Taco Lita! No one has mentioned the famous Taco Lita receipt deal: if you got a red star on your cash register receipt, you got a free burrito. When I was 10, I actually won one!

    Taco Lita had very good food and stood in the mini-restaurant row that included The Hot Dog Show (burned down in the early to mid 1960s) and Grinder Haven at San Antonio and Holt Aves. Cannot recall when Taco Lita was razed, but to put a dump like Burger King on its site is nothing short of sacrilege.

    I for one would love to know the address of the surviving Taco Lita in Arcadia, or how to find it.

    A note about the Hot Dog Show: a Papoo’s Hot Dog Show survives in Burbank across from the Bob’s Big Boy, complete with the signature ‘angelic dog’ neon sign that the Ontario restaurant once sported.

  • JMac

    David, the Taco Lita is on the south side of Duarte Rd, just east of Santa Anita Ave. Travel the 210 to Myrtle, exit and go south to Duarte Rd and head west. It will be on the left. It’s a bit pricier than you will remember, but they don’t skimp on the product.

  • jackie leffingwell

    As long as we’re remembering restaurants long gone, does anyone remember the Hillbilly Burger at the Towne House at Holt and Towne in Pomona? I tried to duplicate them at home with no success.

  • Linda Owens

    Wow, do I ever remember Taco Lita in Pomona. I worked there for a short time in the ’60s but I had to quit when I beacme pregnant. Just couldn’t take the smell of warming up the taco meat and beans in the morning. But I still loved the tacos and the Lita Burger. We used to trade tacos for ice cream sundaes with the people working at the ice cream side. Just a little side note to Bob Terry, my dad also worked at Pomona Tile (most of my family did at one time).

  • Tom Rowley

    There was also a Taco Lita in Glendora on Route 66 (then Alosta Ave). The Arcadia location is well worth the trip. The food hasn’t changed and it is as good as ever! It is on Duarte Road between First and Second Sts. I make it a regular stop before the races at Santa Anita.

  • Dave Linck

    OK, Taco Lita enthusiasts! I just went to Taco Lita in Arcadia and can report back that all is well in Lita Land.

    First of all, the Taco Lita sign, with its brilliant yellow sun, still smiles down on the restaurant. The logo is all over the place, on tee shirts, taco sauce packets etc. The food is great and just as tasty as I remembered, but a little pricey if you go expecting Taco Bell totals. But the jumbo burritos ($6) are huge, and the tacos sport a full slice of tomato and have thick shells filled to the brim with generous amounts of cheese, lettuce and meat for $1.75.

    The piece de resistance is the Lita Sandwich, a taco burger that must weigh half a ton. Be sure and have them skip the thousand island dressing and the dill pickle chips, unless that appeals to you. I had mine with lettuce, tomato slice and cheese along with ground beef. They throw in so many sauce packets that you will go home with some, I bet.

    The staff is cheery, and they seem to know they have a good thing going! Tee shirts and gift script are available, but be sure to bring cash. It is a cash only place (but there is an ATM machine on premises). Taco Lita is located just east of Santa Anita Blvd. on Duarte Road. Take the 210 west to Santa Anita, turn left and travel 3 miles or so to Duarte Road, then turn left and travel about half a mile. Taco Lita will on your right.

    [Thanks for the field report, Dave. Why, you're as good an investigator as your brother Launcelot. You know, the secret chimp. -- DA]

  • b bandit

    Taco Lita, Hot Dog Show and Henry’s on Foothill Blvd were the places to be on the weekends.

  • Gary Unrue

    Hope people will read this as my father was the original owner/founder of Taco Lita.

    The first one was built around 1955 on Holt & San Antonio, Ontario. The second was at Mission & White, Pomona. We also had an additional one at Holt & Reservoir. There were 15 company and franchise stores around Southern California.

    My father passed away in 1969 and the stores were either closed or sold off. Only the Arcadia store remains today.

    My father started in Ontario and Glen Bell (taco bell) started in San Bernardino around the same time. A couple of people mentioned the Lita Burger. It was the best. A burger out of taco meat!! Didn’t get any better…Remember, tacos 5 for a buck!!

    Gary Unrue

    [Gary, thanks for sharing this bit of dining and family history. -- DA]

    • Elena Phillips Ibarra

      My dad ended up purchasing the one on Holt and reservoir in Pomona after it became Star Taco. I started working there in 1975 we ended up having to move it to Mission and San Antonio. And we closed down in 1985. My Dad became popular because he had a large Corvair collection in the parking lots. The one we had on mission was an Old Mc Donald’s restaurant. My best friend and I ( who worked there when it was still Taco Lita) just came back from the one in Arcadia. Boy did that bring back memories!

  • S Summers

    I loved Taco Lita – went to the one in Arcadia last year when I was visiting CA. Does anyone remember Diganzi’s Grinders on Holt Ave across from the Catholic Church? Those were the best! Anyone know of great grinders like those?

  • jim cross

    Yes i remember but i thought it was Deganzie’s grinders in pomona thay were great grew up with them and the old guy that owned it loved the ham grinder with extra extra oil. Use to go in there in the late 50′s early 60′s after my paper route knew the old guy well but not by name even took my son in there a couple of times. Love the Taco Lita too wish i had both now. jim

  • Richard Kruse

    I remember the Taco-Lita on Holt near Garfield Park. Some of my friends from Montclair High School (1964-68) used to go there often. Garfield Park for years had no sign indicating its name, so to my friends it was Taco-Lita Park.

  • Minorkle

    This Englishman loves Taco Lita. When visiting my stateside relatives as a young chap, I would insist on visiting the Taco Lita on San Antonio and Holt. I would also enjoy a “combo burrito”. I could never find food this delicious in Liverpool. I am so happy to know that a Taco Lita still exists in Arcadia. You know that it will be on my next travel itinerary.

  • Greg Herbert

    I know that there was a Taco Lita located in West Covina. Can anybody tell me where it was located?

  • Cynthia Jones Stukey

    Unfortunately, when Gary Unrue responded about Taco Lita, he neglected to mention that my father, Jack Jones, actually had the location at Holt & San Antonio. My father and Hank Unrue were partners for many years, 1947-1969, having had Foster Freeze prior to developing Taco Lita.

    THEY, as partners, were the original founders/owners, it was a collaboration, not one man’s idea. Hank had the location in Pomona at Mission & White. As they expanded through the years, there were eventually over a dozen company stores and franchises, having incorporated on April 5,1966. In fact, I still have the corporate seal.

    I am sure that Gary Unrue did not intend to give the impression that his father
    created Taco Lita all on his own, but he left out some very important details.

    My father passed away in 1970, however my mother operated the location at Holt & San Antonio until October 1985 when the property was sold by the Goddard estate, who originally had their family home and grove there. I hope that this clarifies any previous misinformation.

    Cynthia Jones Stukey

  • David Shireman

    David Shireman – Yuma,AZ
    I was talking with my wife about trying to make a version of a Lita Burger. There was a Taco Lita here in Yuma for many years and we both would inhale the sandwiches until we were stuffed. We are going to attempt making some of them for supper tonight. Thanks for the memories.
    And thanks for “The David Allen Blog” and to Google for helping jog this old farts memory.