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Is a taco a sandwich? An Indiana judge settles the debate

No word on what the judge thinks about hot dogs, though.
/ Source: TODAY

A judge has called a wrap on one tortilla-based case.

On May 13, Craig J. Bobay, Superior Court Judge in Allen County, Indiana, ruled that tacos and burritos count as “Mexican-style sandwiches.”

Why did this internet debate make it to a Midwestern county court? Martin Quintana, developer and owner of The Famous Taco, needed the ruling in order to complete his latest endeavor: a new restaurant location in a Fort Wayne shopping center.

“The Court agrees with Quintana that tacos and burritos are Mexican-style sandwiches, and the original Written Commitment does not restrict potential restaurants to only American cuisine-style sandwiches,” Bobay wrote in the ruling.

Back in 2022, Quintana was preparing to install a second location of The Famous Taco restaurant at the shopping center property. Then, a condominium association nearby objected, suggesting the eatery would violate the property’s zoning policy.

According to the legal filing, Quintana previously signed a zoning agreement that prohibits fast-food style restaurants except for a “sandwich bar-style restaurant whose primary business is to sell ‘made-to-order’ or ‘subway-style’ sandwiches.” 

This means restaurants like Subway or Jimmy John’s are allowed to open in his shopping center fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, Arby’s and Wendy’s are not. Additionally, any approved restaurant in the shopping center must not have outdoor seating, drive-through service or sell alcoholic beverages.

For months, Quintana and his lawyer had several discussions over the proposed Famous Taco location with the Fort Wayne Plan Commission. During an October 2022 public hearing, Quintana said through representation that the dispute over The Famous Taco had “kind of became an argument of … is a taco a sandwich or not,” hoping to amend the agreement if the answer was no.

The Plan Commission did not approve the proposed amendment which meant The Famous Taco could not open. So in December 2022, Quintana asked the court to review that decision. Two years later, the court made its ruling.

Bobay stated in his decision that The Famous Taco “is permissible” under the original agreement Quintana signed. He said the agreement would also technically permit restaurants that serve “made-to-order Greek gyros, Indian naan wraps, or Vietnamese banh mi” if each business followed the restrictions outlined. 

“Here, a Famous Taco restaurant is encompassed by the terms of the original Written Commitment, and no Amendment was necessary,” Bobay wrote in the decision, meaning since he deduced that tacos and burritos are sandwiches, Quintana was technically always allowed to open the restaurant.

The listed lawyers in the filing for the Fort Wayne Plan Commission did not immediately respond to TODAY.com’s request for comment.

John McGauley, a spokesperson for the Allen County Superior Court, tells TODAY.com that he and Bobay are prohibited by the Indiana Code of Judicial Ethics from commenting directly on a case in front of them. 

Still, McGauley did say the court has become the subject of a lot of attention due to the ruling.

“Our Court has been involved many times in cases that put it in the national spotlight,” McGauley tells TODAY.com. “But this is the first one that sparked a national discussion of food, namely what constitutes a sandwich.” (McGauley noted he watched the TODAY show’s coverage of the case during our second hour).

“It’s serious business to the parties involved, but the conversations surrounding this case have been a nice change of pace,” McGauley says. “This case would normally provide the ingredients for some meaty food puns, but we won’t go there.”

Quintana himself is just happy he gets to move on and open his restaurant, which will join a bridal shop, clothing boutique and a future skin care studio operated by his daughter in the same shopping center.

“We’re glad we’re gonna be able to open,” Quintana tells TODAY.com. “We have hundreds of people waiting for that spot to be open. They really love The Famous Taco, so I’m glad everything is over.”

As for the internet at large, folks took to social media to weigh in on the debate, offering their thoughts as well as plenty of jokes.

“If a hotdog can be a sandwich, why not a taco?” one X user posited.

“NO. ACTUAL TACOS ARE MADE OUT OF TORTILLAS. NOT A SANDWICH,” another wrote.

“it follows that a choco taco is an ice cream sandwich,” wrote one user on X adding another layer to the debate. Someone then rebutted, “Is a Choco-Taco even a taco?”

“Call your taco a sandwich it’s all good,” added another. “It all looks the same after the digestive process anyways 😹.”