Why the term ‘Taco Tuesday’ is forbidden for Texas taco joints

Barbacoa Tacos at Rosa’s Grill in northwest Fort Worth.
Barbacoa Tacos at Rosa’s Grill in northwest Fort Worth.

Alas, Taco Tuesday is not really “Taco Tuesday” in Texas.

Not according to the official record of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, at least. While Texans from El Paso to Texarakana may sit down with family and friends at any number of taco dispensaries on the day that falls between Monday and Wednesday and eat their fill, the strictures of the national taco promotion trademark machine are firm on what terms may be used in driving Tuesday taco traffic.

It may come as a shock Texas taco enthusiasts that the holder of the “Taco Tuesday” trademark is, gasp, a Wyoming-based taco chain. The Houston Chronicle reported last week on the Tex-Mex sacrilege, confirming that, yes, something called Taco John’s has actually owned the trademark for the phrase “Taco Tuesday” in 49 states since 1989.

Taco John’s has nearly 400 locations in 25 states, mostly in the Midwest. Someone got there first in New Jersey, though, buying the trademark there in 1982. The closest Taco John’s location to Texas is in Arkansas.

All this invites a question: How do Fort Worth favorites cut through all the legalese to bring the starving masses the de facto official dish of Texas? For example, Rosa’s Cafe and Tortilla Factory put perhaps the area’s most widely recognized Tuesday taco promotion in place over a decade ago.

“The term ‘Taco Tuesday’ was used by quite a few restaurants back in those days,” said Craig Van Amburgh, a spokesman for Rosa’s. “We got away from that when we learned of the potential liability issues in using that terminology.”

In response, Rosa’s bought its own trademark. Maybe you’ve heard it: “Tuesdays were meant for tacos at Rosa’s.” Not as succinct, not as to-the-point or as widely quoted as the original, but effective nonetheless if you’ve ever found yourself in one of the chain’s 43 Texas dining rooms around dinner time on a Tuesday.

If you have , you probably convinced whoever accompanied you to go by referring to the outing as “Taco Tuesday.”

“The public still uses that term, but that’s not how we brand our Tuesday taco promotion,” Van Amburgh said.

It’s easy to see why. Taco John’s is not fooling around when it comes to defending the restaurant’s claim to the terminology that has become so ingrained in the public lexicon.

To be fair to Taco John’s, the tweet above is from 2010, perhaps a more litigious time in the Taco Tuesday legal saga. Last week’s Chronicle story apparently alerted some taco-heads to Taco-John’s presence, and a social media crowd raised pitchforks in response Thursday.

Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817