Taco Bell is ready to party in Hollywood, adding one of its boozy Cantina locations to the Walk of Fame this week. The restaurant is a mix of the Irvine-based fast-food chain’s neon-tinged artwork and Art Deco styling, complete with chandeliers, a light-up marquee over the bar and ordering counter, and ornate handicraft on the building at 6741 Hollywood Boulevard. Previously the historic Pickwick bookstore dating back nearly a century, now LA tourists can get Baja Blasted off of alcohol-soaked slushies served in unnatural colors and plastic cups.
Don’t expect an upscale experience at this Taco Bell location — just better lighting and some booze. Customers will be asked to order at the digital kiosks and find a seat at the bar, on the opposing wall under some vintage framed photos, or over by the window that looks out onto Hollywood Boulevard. There’s even, apparently, a hookup for DJ equipment, though one wonders how often it’ll be used. As for the food, the menu is mostly the same, with the usual slew of tacos, Crunchwraps, and other staple Taco Bell fare.
The new Taco Bell Cantina in Hollywood comes from franchisee Brian Cox, and is the first such Cantina anywhere in LA County. The model has certainly proven popular elsewhere (particularly in similarly tourist-heavy Las Vegas), and it’s likely to offer some appeal to those looking to drink and dine for cheap in one of the more congested parts of town, just a block or so away from the neighborhood’s epicenter at Hollywood and Highland. Still, for other more compelling food in the area, there’s the classic Musso & Frank just to the east, and for retro excellence and better fare, there’s Mels Drive-In just to the south.
Perhaps most distressingly, this new fast-food outlet actually sits within the general “no vending” zone in Hollywood, where street vendors — a vital part of the LA culinary scene — are banned from selling their own tacos, hot dogs, pupusas, and other foods. A lawsuit is currently underway that would repeal some or all of the city’s prohibited vending zones, and the outcome of that suit could meaningfully change Hollywood’s dining scene down the line, especially as that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard plans a dramatic reconceptualization to become more pedestrian and retail-friendly. For now, incoming city council member Hugo Soto-Martinez is working on loosening some of those very same vending restrictions within city hall instead of the court system.