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#193. Steamboat Taco Time Chapter 6. Angel's Among Us

Steamboat Taco Time
Ch 6.24 * #193 * Jun. 16, 2024
  1. (outdoors at 'Steamboat Taco Time' at night.) Music: "We got the meat — We got the meatYeah! We got the meat!"
  2. Animatronic band (Disco Jenny & the Sauce!): "Won't you take me to — Taco Town!" "Won't you take me to — Taco Town!"
  3. Angel (at a table with Zia, frowning up at the disco ball overhead). Music: "Lookin' for some Hot Sauce, baby, this evenin'!" "I need some Hot Sauce, baby, tonight!" Zia (grinning maniacally).
  4. Angel (facepalming with a headache): "This place is the worst." Zia (shouting over the music): "I know! Isn't it great!?"
Characters: Angel, Music, Zia

You can almost feel Angel dying a little inside.

Welcome to Zia's favorite restaurant, "Steamboat Taco Time!" Whether she loves it for real or just ironically I can't answer. It's probably both. Maybe 40/60.

In the animatronic band, we have Roxy Foxy, Disco Jenny, Groovy Gary, and the Cluckettes, playing "music" that's almost entirely bad puns or ads (or both) from speakers that are a little too loud and a little too scratchy. The food is cheap tacos that are only a half step above Taco Bell or Del Taco, with a strange, unique flavor you can't quite untaste, and the drinks are all slightly watered down. Just around the corner, there are token-stealing arcade machines, claw machines, and skee-ball. There's almost always a children's birthday party, it's always loud and noisy, and the disco ball and strobe lights spin all day from morning to close.

The chain is the result of a merger between "Steamboat Pizza & Wings," a regional chain founded in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1976, and "Taco Time!" originally headquartered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1978. They merged in 1988, and "Steamboat Taco Time!" was — well, born is probably not the right word; congealed may be a more precise descriptor. But the chain expanded rapidly across the South and Southwest, and "Steamboat Taco Time!" issued an IPO in 1996, then expanded further into the North and Midwest. After declining revenues and mismanagement, it was purchased in 2002 by International Amusement & Beverages Ltd., who closed half the restaurants after the purchase, but otherwise still operates it today. It has been rebranded and rebooted dozens of times, and no part of it makes sense anymore, from the Alamo-shaped façades to the '80s-styled rock-and-roll animatronic furries playing bad '70s disco covers.

It is singularly awful: A glorious, horrible money vacuum, a consumerist nightmare at its absolute worst.

But with 156 restaurants in and around major cities across the South and West and a full parking lot every weekend, it's not going away any time soon — much to the chagrin of anyone with good taste.

— Inker