Athletes Know When They Find an All-Star in the Concession Stand

Paint Branch sophomore Jillian Tse prepares a
Paint Branch sophomore Jillian Tse prepares a "walk-away taco" in the school's outdoor concession stand. (By Preston Williams -- The Washington Post)
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By Preston Williams
Thursday, April 23, 2009

Given their enthusiasm for the subject, it was almost as if Paint Branch senior track athletes Raul Flores and Omar Hutchinson had been waiting for years for someone to ask them about the "walk-away taco," a concession stand staple at their Montgomery County school and at relatively few others in the Washington area, an item also referred to as "taco in a bag."

Paint Branch Athletic Director Jeff Sullivan fetched the unabashed walk-away connoisseurs for a visitor last week during a home track meet with Quince Orchard and Seneca Valley. Varsity wanted to discuss the merits of the taco, with all its steaminess and sour creaminess, its crunchiness and Mexican lunchiness.

Paint Branch-style, a walk-away taco is a one-ounce bag of Fritos corn chips (crushed for easier spooning), topped, still in the bag, with heated chili sauce (including beef and beans), sour cream and a blend of shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, cheddar, queso quesadilla and asadero).

The walk-away is a contained taco, almost like a salad but without the vegetables, relatively un-messy (more on that later), easily portable, reasonably priced ($2) and far more flavorful than a hot dog or hamburger.

"It's like a better, mobile version of nachos," Flores said. "Matter of fact, it's like a mobile Chipotle, a better Chipotle, for a cheaper price."

"True, true," affirmed Hutchinson, who would go on to dub his school's concession stand "Tacotle," a combination of taco and Chipotle, the popular Mexican chain restaurant.

"We were talking about this last week," Flores said, turning to his buddy. "The walk-away taco is getting bigger. That's like our best thing. . . . You can get a hot dog from anywhere."

"That's all we eat, from basketball season to right now," Hutchinson said. "It's so good that you're not even supposed to go into the gym with them, and we sneak them in."

At Paint Branch, the walk-away is cheaper than a cheeseburger ($3), hamburger ($2.50), nachos ($2.50 with cheese, $3 with cheese and chili) and a hot dog with chili ($2.50), and is the same price as a regular hot dog.

Sullivan estimates that the school sold 400 walk-aways during the fall. The concession stand is the athletic department's top moneymaker.

"That's a big chunk of fundraising off one item, if you think of it," Sullivan said.

Shirley Tse and other concession stand workers, including daughter Jillian, a Paint Branch sophomore, prepare the walk-aways on site during football and soccer games in the fall, basketball games and wrestling matches in winter and track meets and lacrosse matches in spring.

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