Editor’s note: I’ve got a confession to make. I absolutely LOVE the Mexican Pizza from Taco Bell. It’s got everything you’d want in a satisfying junk food: melted cheese, beans, seasoned beef, whatever that tomatoey sauce is on the top. Like Doja Cat rapped in a recent video pleading for its return, “I got beans, I need meat, I need a shell with a sauce and cheese.”
Its discontinuation in November 2020 left a bad taste for many fans and came just a few months after another beloved Bell item was removed from the menu: the spicy tostada. The spicy tostada, much like the Mexican Pizza served as a much-needed vegetarian fast-food alternative within the South Asian community. Here, we share some thoughts on the matter from Dipka Bhambhani, a Houston native currently living in D.C., along with a renewed call for Taco Bell to bring back the spicy tostada (edited for brevity and clarity).
The return of the Mexican Pizza is more than a menu addition. For South Asians, the pizza portends the return of the celebrated spicy tostada, which Taco Bell discontinued in August 2020. The outcry over Taco Bell discontinuing its tostada was something of a cacophony in the Indian community.
The crispy flat shell smeared with warm smooth vegetarian pinto beans, topped with shredded cheddar, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and the famous spicy chutney was a saving grace, something for South Asian vegetarians to reach for in a sea of hamburgers and non-vegetarian fast food. The tostada was a delicious crunchy treat for my Indian mom who just needed a break from cooking once in a while.
The tostada was among the inaugural menu items when Glen Bell founded the company 60 years ago. And when Taco Bell expanded outside of California and eventually east of the Mississippi in 1970, the famous Bell became an oasis for Indian vegetarian families on long road trips through nowhere.
But in August 2020, Taco Bell made the pandemic worse for hundreds of thousands of uncles and aunties. It discontinued the spicy tostada.
In an unusual request, my mom recommended I take to Twitter. I didn’t think I had much gravitas; I only had about 600 followers at the time. I’m up to 636 now.
But, I was already following Taco Bell on Twitter, it didn’t have many followers either. I thought the powers that be at Yum! Brands (the Bell’s parent company) might notice that I was part of their community, responding to surveys and ideas.
So I took to Twitter in September, and that Tweet generated 600 impressions and 37 engagements. I was impressed. Unfortunately, no dice; Taco Bell didn’t respond to my Tweet much less bring back its spicy tostada. To be fair, there was a petition to bring the Mexican pizza back, and even that failed, until now.
This all felt like defeat considering I couldn’t even make my own tostadas; Old El Paso discontinued their tostada shells in many markets years ago, although my fiancé found them in a market in Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan campus. I’m well-stocked for the next half-year, or month, considering how often I have taco night — six days a week.
Now that the Mexican pizza is back, I beg David Gibbs at Yum! Brands Inc. to bring back the tostada. It’s just heaven, and really just a Mexican pizza with lettuce and less cheese. We don’t even need the Beyond Beef, although that’s a nice addition.
A version of this column originally appeared in the April 21, 2022 edition of Tostada Thursdays, Tostada Magazine’s weekly newsletter. Become a subscriber today by clicking here.
Author: Dipka Bhambhani
Dipka Bhambhani is a senior contributor to Forbes magazine on energy, a senior advisor to ExxonMobil on energy communication and a language specialist for the US federal government for special projects. Originally from Houston, Dipka now lives in Washington, DC and spends her spare time, writing comedy and reinventing the tostada so her family doesn’t notice it’s taco night every night.