New Taco Bell Cantina opens up on Durant Avenue

Daniel Kim/Senior Staff

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Those looking for a new place to party on Taco Tuesday won’t have to go far from campus after the arrival of a new alcohol- and taco-serving restaurant on Durant Avenue — Berkeley’s very own Taco Bell Cantina.

Students and city residents have expressed their excitement at trying the new Taco Bell at 2528B Durant Ave., located between Telegraph Avenue and Bowditch Street. The store is part of Taco Bell Cantina — a restaurant line that aims to modernize the brand through new digital features. The line focuses on bringing the chain to urban areas.

UC Berkeley alumni Hriday Kemburu and Jay Patel, who lined up at Taco Bell on Monday, said they both love the chain and are happy that the store is now close by.

“You can tell by the line that it’s very popular, and classes haven’t even started yet,” Patel said.

Robin Calleja, a campus junior and media studies major, enjoyed his first meal at the newly opened restaurant Monday. He said that thanks to its long hours, the restaurant is a convenient option for students studying on campus, especially during RRR and finals weeks.

Four other Taco Bell Cantina restaurants have already opened in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago and Austin, according to a Taco Bell press release from November. The stores are modeled to be integrated into urban environments, featuring an open kitchen and television monitors. The stores also serve alcoholic drinks, according to a September 2015 press release.

“(The cantina) is a good idea for a college town,” said Michelle Phung, a campus sophomore and economics major. “The interior is nicer, but the food is pretty much the same.”

Patel and Kemburu expect the Taco Bell to be a popular place due to the television screens and alcoholic drinks.

“I definitely think it’s going to be one of the hotspots,” Kemburu said.

The new Taco Bell restaurant will compete with the next-door restaurant, La Burrita, as well as other nearby Mexican restaurants, such as Pancho’s, Chipotle and Gordo’s.

Sal Naser, the owner of the La Burrita on Durant Avenue, was concerned about the opening at first but said he doesn’t feel that the arrival of the Taco Bell will cause serious competition with his own business.

“I’m not too happy about them moving in, but honestly they don’t scare me,” Naser said. “I’ve been here for almost 30 years. … I’ve seen many restaurants — Mexican ones especially — come and go, come and go, but I’m still here.”

Calleja and Phung, however, said the competition with a chain as big as Taco Bell could be challenging for La Burrita because Taco Bell’s prices are much cheaper.

Despite the concerns of competition, some people said they would continue eating at both La Burrita and Taco Bell.

“(La Burrita and Taco Bell) are both part of a healthy Berkeley diet,” Patel said.

Charlotte Kosche covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @CharlotteKosche.