A Trip to Timothy Leary’s Favorite Taco Bell

Alright, I guess it’s time to get it out in the open…I love Taco Bell. I know, say what you will…but sometimes a crunchy taco with a side of chips and cheese and a Mountain Dew is just what this girl needs. So, when I found out that there were only four Taco Bells operating out of original, 60s locations, and one, the third oldest operating one to be exact, was just a few miles south of me, I knew I had to visit.

In 1962 Glenn Bell opened up the first Taco Bell in Downey, a few miles north of us, as a small walk-up style restaurant (side note: the original, lovingly referred to as “Numero Uno” Taco Bell was saved a few years back and now sits wrapped up in plastic at Taco Bell HQ in Irvine, what exactly will become of it is still up in the air). Two years later it became a franchise and by 1967 it opened its 100th location, here in Anaheim. But today only a handful of the humble original Taco Bells remain, including the oldest one in Orange County, located in Laguna Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway, built in 1967.

View of the Taco Bell, which is a brick structure painted in tan, brown, and orange.

Like “Numero Uno” the Laguna Beach location opened as a walk-up with a small outdoor patio and fire pit out front. At some point in the 1970s that all changed, and the fire pit and patio were removed, making way for a small, enclosed dining room. Today you can see the seam where the addition was made. Located just two blocks from the Pacific Ocean, and with its tiny parking lot, the Taco Bell has catered to locals and tourists alike. One of those locals just happened to be LSD king himself, Timothy Leary, who used this location as a meeting spot for his Brotherhood of Eternal Love, aka the Hippie Mafia. Leary and his “Brotherhood” were known not only for their “trips” but also for illegally importing hashish. Looks like the stereotype of getting high and grabbing Taco Bell has existed for quite awhile!

Three arched windows of the dining room added in the 1970s.

The order counter.

Myself outside of the Taco Bell, holding a crunchy taco, with a fountain in the background

Various succulents grow in a brick planter against a brick wall.

Close-up of the arched window in front.

Three-quarter angle of the Taco Bell, showcasing the seam where the dining room was added to the original front.

Currently owned by franchisee Steve Smith, who is still on the original lease signed by Glen Bell, this location has a bit of an uncertain future! Its lease is up this year, and it sits on prime real estate. So make sure you visit soon! Grab a bite at the Laguna Beach Taco Bell located at 699 South Coast Highway.

Interested in visiting one of the other remaining original Taco Bells? Check the list below to see if one is near you!

5980 Hollister Avenue, Goleta, California

821 N. Milpas Street, Santa Barbara, California

7847 E. McDowell Road, Scottsdale, Arizona

Sources
Alderton, Bryce. “Laguna Beach’s Taco Bell celebrates 50 years on Saturday.” Los Angeles Times, 4 April 2017.
Ritchie Erika I. “Could 50 year anniversary of Taco Bell in Laguna Beach be the beginning of the end?The Orange County Register, 7 April 2017.

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