Street tacos coming to Southwest Plaza mall

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Street tacos have been all the rage in recent years, with both food trucks and brick-and-mortar eateries getting crafty with the seemingly simple Mexican staple. R Taco threw its hat in the ring six years ago in Dallas, and its third Colorado location is scheduled to open this week at Southwest Plaza.

“We’re a fast-casual kind of street-style taco concept,” said Michael Triola, the company’s director of operations. “We’re different because we don’t have the burritos and all the other salads or anything else like a lot of other Mexican restaurants that do fast-casual.”

Under the original name Rusty Taco, R Taco’s founder, the late Rusty Fenton, and partner Steve Dunn traveled the country collecting recipes and styles for their first restaurant. The mix of flavors is the culinary calling card for the soft tacos.

“What we’ve done is, we’ve put together tacos that we think taste really great,” Triola said. “All the flavors and spices could be a little Mexican, could be a little American, could be a little Colombian. We kind of searched all over and just put really good combinations together.”

Their staple entree is the Rusty Taco, with achiote pork and pineapple, onion and cilantro.

“We chop our vegetables, we mash our (guacamole) by hand, we cook our brisket for 18 hours, we put pork in the oven for 12 hours,” Triola said. “So everything is done with care and by hand, and everything is freshly prepared. So queso is done every day; we fry our chips every day.”

Regional manager Matthew Casey also thinks customers will enjoy the restaurant’s vibe.

“The atmosphere is real lively and quirky and fun, and the food is authentic street-style tacos,” Casey said. “We don’t try to do too much with it; we just keep the food simple and we make everything in house, all the salsas, all the proteins, everything.”

R Taco is now majority owned by Buffalo Wild Wings, a partnership that started before Fenton’s death from cancer in 2013. In six short years since the first location opened in Dallas, R Taco has expanded to 13 restaurants in four states. And part of that expansion involves introducing Coloradans to the breakfast taco.

“Breakfast tacos all day is huge in Texas, and we’re finding that here in Colorado that breakfast tacos aren’t really a thing,” Casey said. “Everybody knows the breakfast burrito. So we’re excited to try to build up that following. Like in Texas, everybody wants to find the best breakfast taco.”

This will be the company’s first location in a mall, and the recent renovations at Southwest Plaza were a big draw.

“With what they’re doing to that mall, as soon as we saw that site, we knew that was going to be the perfect spot for us,” Casey said.

Casey said having an external entrance, versus being inside in a food court, sealed the deal.

“That really attracted us because our hours we could expand a little bit,” Casey said. “We can open earlier or close a little bit later. Especially for the commuters going to work. In Dallas people stop by for a breakfast taco on their way to work. I mean, they’ll pick up 20 to 40 tacos for the office. We definitely want to have that option available for the crowd here in Denver.”

Street tacos are smaller, and it’s suggested two tacos with a side or three tacos without a side be purchased for a meal. The average check for one person totals between $8 and $10.

The partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings has allowed for the quick growth, and Colorado felt like the best next step for R Taco, according to Triola.

“It was a natural fit. I think, for us, just the landscape of Colorado, the people in Colorado, the food culture in Colorado became something that we wanted to be a part of.”