America’s Taco Shop, a fast-casual Mexican chain based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is beginning to expand nationally.
The concept, which has six restaurants in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, will open a new franchised unit in Bethesda, Md., on Nov. 9 through a deal with Kahala Corp. of Scottsdale. Six additional restaurants are in the works in for Miami, Arizona, California and Texas, said Terry Bortin, who founded the original Taco Shop in 2008 with his wife, America Corrales-Bortin.
The Bortins still own four of the original restaurants in the greater Phoenix area, and the franchising deal with Kahala has produced two corporate-owned units, the most recent of which opened in Scottsdale in mid-October.
Dana Mead, Kahala’s director of franchise development, said in a phone interview Thursday that the new units feature a fast-casual atmosphere and range from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. They also feature an updated version of the original four units’ traditional taqueria look.
The menu was created by America Corrales-Bortin, who grew up in the city of Culiacán in Western Mexico, Terry Bortin said. As a child, she would watch her mother prepare the dishes that became the recipes at America’s Taco Shop.
Terry Bortin spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about the concept.
How has the menu evolved?
We started the restaurant around carne asada. We focused on carne asada and doing it the best you can do it. We’ve since added the al pastor, which is the citrus-marinated spiced pork, which is done in the traditional cooking method on the spit. And we’ve also addedto the menu. Those three proteins you can have in a variety of different ways: the tacos, the quesadillas, the burritos and the tortas.
And beyond the meats?
We offer a bean-and-cheese [filling], which is not [made with] your typical bean — the pinto bean — found in Mexican restaurants. It’s a bean called the mayocoba. That’s a bean that America grew up with in her home. It’s a little more flavorful. Our beans are vegan friendly. We also do a ceviche, a shrimp ceviche, a couple of times a week.
And you have some interesting side dishes?
We do America’s Corn, which a sweet white corn brushed with light mayo and cotija Michoacán cheese, guacamaya chile and lime. Everything is fresh and made in-house daily.
What’s your check average for the original four restaurants?
Our check average is right around $8 per person.
Do you sell adult beverages?
Five of the current six locations have liquor licenses here in Arizona. We do the Mexican bottled beer and margaritas. Depending on the location, I think going forward that will be part of the brand.
What is the service model?
You come up and place your order at the counter. We bring the food out to your table. That takes it up to another level. We can also do chip refills and drink refills. It’s not quite full service, but we make sure we are touching our guests at the beginning, middle and end of their meal.
What sets America’s Taco Shop apart from other Mexican concepts?
It’s a true authentic product to her hometown of Culiacán. “America’s Taco Shop” doesn’t sound like a real authentic Mexican restaurant. When people find out the founder is America, guests have a great reaction to a product they’ve never had before.