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What is Taco Tuesday: The Origins of Everyone's Favorite Meal of the Week

May 21, 2021 5 min read

What is Taco Tuesday

Whether you're enjoying a taqueria's discounted tacos or making your own Mexican-themed meals, Tuesday seems to be the night to enjoy these spicy, folded tortillas. But, why Tuesday? Learn more about the origins and surprising trademarks associated with "Taco Tuesday."

Americans love Mexican food, especially tacos. We eat them by the millions. Actually, by the billions - 4.5 billion per year, give or take a few hundred thousand, I'm sure. 

And what day do we like to eat them? Every day! (It was a trick question.) But we do see Mexican food advertised more on Taco Tuesdays when plenty of chains offer discounted prices on a sort of delicious taco creations. 

But how did Taco Tuesday start? And why was someone able to trademark it? The answer to these and more burning Taco Tuesday-related questions in our Taco Tuesday background below. 

What's Taco Tuesday?

It's a common, North American custom in which taquerias, restaurants, food trucks, hipster joints, and fast-food chains sell all sorts of tacos at a discounted price. 

Who does Taco Tuesday?

Too many restaurants to count! We see it in most major American cities nationwide, but especially in areas that serve loads of Mexican cuisine, like Southern California. 

Why do they call it Taco Tuesday?

If you're looking for a deeper Taco Tuesday meaning, we're just as lost as you. Many restaurants like to offer discounted food on certain days, but there aren't any specific answers as to why Tuesday was the chosen day for discounted tacos. We guess that the alliteration had something to do with it - Taco Wednesday or Taco Friday doesn't have the same simple ring to it!

Taco Tuesday history: Where did Taco Tuesday come from?

Tacos on Tuesdays are Tuesday Tacos, by any other name

There are many unknowns about the origin of Taco Tuesday, but one thing we do know is where we see the first associations of tacos and Tuesdays in print. The El Paso Herald-Post printed a classified ad in 1933 for the White Star Cafeteria at St. Regis, plugging its campaign to sell Mexican tacos on Tuesday!

We see a few other mentions around the Taco Tuesday origin - Albuquerque's Sia Lounge offered free tacos on Tuesday in 1949, while a Green Bay restaurant, Olivers, offered a taco deal on Tuesdays for a free coffee with your purchase. We'd much rather sip a margarita with our tacos than a hot coffee, but a deal is a deal!

La Cucaracha had Tuesday specials on tacos in 1965, as did a few other restaurants in the late 60s.

Interested in learning more? Check out our article on history of tacos!

The true "Taco Tuesday" beginnings: Who invented Taco Tuesday deals?

We see the first printed use of the full term "Taco Tuesday" in 1973 in South Dakota's Rapid City Journal. An advertisement for the Snow White Drive-In features a flamenco dancer and the slogan, "Stop in on Taco Tuesday." And the rest is history! Except for the part where another brand trademarked the name. 

Taco John's, trademarks, and legal threats

Bear with us as we've just entered the sketchy territory of Taco Tuesday's history. Baker's Drive-Thru, a California-based fast-food chain, offered and advertised Taco Tuesday specials as early as 1967. And we're sure they weren't the only ones. Much like fish and chip Fridays, it's so mainstream that it belongs to everyone. 

This is why it came as a strange surprise to many that the Taco John's chain trademarked the use of "Taco Tuesdays" in 1989. This massive chain has 400 stores across 23 states. 

The first mention of Taco Tuesdays in Taco John's printed advertising was in 1979. That's almost 50 years after the first association between selling discounted tacos on Tuesdays and nearly ten years after other brands clearly advertised with the exact phrase "Taco Tuesday."

Straight from the Taco John's website:

"Ever hear of Taco Tuesday®? We started it! We even trademarked it."

John, we think you may need to check your taco history facts, but we're still willing to hear you out.

As far-fetched as that claim seems to be, it gets even more confusing - mainly because Taco John's themselves are confused about when and how they invented the phrase. Their website stated in 2011 that Taco Tuesday began in Rapid City, South Dakota, in 1982. A 2010 press release claimed it was 1983, and a brand spokesperson stated they started using it in February 1982. 

While we might not agree that Taco John's coined the phrase Taco Tuesdays, we'll agree they were the first with the Taco Tuesday trademark everywhere in America - except for Jersey. 

Nevertheless, the government granted Taco John's the trademark for the phrase "they invented," and Taco Tuesday is officially still trademarked today nationwide by Taco John's. Except in New Jersey, where Gregory's Restaurant and Bar beat them to the punch, trademarking the phrase ten years earlier in 1979.

Countless cease-and-desists - the ultimate taco stoppers

Some people are very turned off by a taco chain successfully trademarking such a ubiquitous phrase that we all should freely use as free intellectual property.

Unfortunately, Taco John's seems to have a heavy hand when it comes to sending cease-and-desist letters - at this point, among certain groups, they're more infamous for their legal actions than their tacos. These letters are sent to restaurants of all sizes, not just to other large chains. Small breweries and taco stands receive these letters. 

A Canadian company, MTY Food Group, holds the trademark in the great white north as of 1997, and they send cease-and-desist letters to other businesses trying to use the phrase, too. 

Modern Taco Tuesday & the connection to LeBron James

Lebron James is a massive basketball legend, but it turns out we have something in common - our love for Taco Tuesdays. Lebron posts Taco Tuesday videos and pictures all over his social media accounts and loves to use the catchphrase often. 

LeBron James recently tried to trademark the phrase "Taco Tuesdays," and the US Patent and Trademark Office denied his request. Why? According to the USPTO, Taco Tuesday is "a commonplace term, message, or expression widely used by a variety of sources, merely conveying an ordinary, familiar, well-recognized concept or sentiment." LeBron was happy with the denial because it was a sign that Taco Tuesday is so ordinary anyone can use it freely. 

Though,, as of now he hasn't, LeBron could take things a step further to file a petition to cancel with the USPTO, which, if successful, would leave Taco John's trademark null and void. 

Whether anyone cancels the current trademark held, chances are the response from the USPTO means those cease-and-desist likely represent less power than you'd think. And someday, this trademark will likely be altogether void!

Final Notes: Does the battle for Taco Tuesday matter?

This battle is considered pretty silly by the majority of the culture that invented tacos in the first place. Most Mexicans consider tacos a staple of their cuisine, and the idea of saving one day for taco-eating seems entirely ludicrous for them. 

And on that note, we hope you enjoy using your taco holder on Taco Tuesdays, Taco Thursdays, and Taco Sundays, or any other day of the week you please!

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