Taco Local finds a home on Williamson Street

Simple tacos are the key at this food truck concept turned restaurant.
Interior Of Taco Local with a bar
Photo by Maija Inveiss

Six years after David Rodriguez first catered tacos for his sister’s wedding, he is expanding the concept by opening a Taco Local brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Rodriguez, who also owns International Catering Co. and Melted Craft Grilled Cheese, made tacos for friends and family when they would come for dinner, but it wasn’t until the wedding and an appearance at Eaux Claires Music Festival that Taco Local came to be.

Melted was going to Eaux Claires and the organizers were looking for a taco vendor, and Rodriguez determined that he could do it. The name Taco Local was born, and he continued to build the brand through events and his food truck.

Over the past two years, Rodriguez says he started to think that Taco Local would make a great small restaurant. When the space at 811 Williamson St. opened up after Underground Butcher closed, he took over the lease in December 2019.

Mural next to pottery

Local artist Triangulador (@triangulad0r on Instagram) created a mural at Taco Local. Photo by Maija Inveiss

“This restaurant started more because of the space,” Rodriguez says. “When this space became available I knew I wanted it.”

Rodriguez took over the lease a couple months before the Safer at Home order was issued and things shut down because of COVID-19. He was left with deciding what to do with the space, and working to keep running his business and paying his employees.

Despite it being the worst year of his life, Rodriguez says the silver lining to COVID-19 was that he was able to spend six months in the space and decide how he wanted Taco Local to operate.

“We got to build this restaurant into what it wanted to be as opposed to what I wanted it to be initially,” Rodriguez says.

Rodriguez describes Taco Local as a food truck with a dining room and a bar. With a small kitchen to provide more space in the dining room, all of the prep work is done off-site and then cooked fresh in the restaurant.

hostess stand next to the bar inside Taco Local

Photo by Maija Inveiss

Taco Local is open daily as a café in the morning and as a restaurant for lunch and dinner. In the morning, you’ll find breakfast burritos, tacos and tortas, along with espresso drinks and house-baked pastries. The rest of the day, you’ll find Rodriguez’s own recipes — think mango-braised pork, tequila lime chicken and jerk vegetable tacos.

“These are my recipes,” Rodriguez says. “I didn’t go on a trip through Mexico and take recipes that I found along the way, these are things that I made to begin with.”

Everything is made from scratch with a special focus on making standout pico de gallo. Most of the tacos have three to four ingredients, and that’s intentional. Rodriquez wants to keep it as simple as possible.

“The key to everything here is simplicity so I’m not trying to break the mold, I’m making food that I know people are going to want to eat,” Rodriguez says.

Pottery and Triangulador's mural

Cambridge Wood Fired Pottery created custom pottery for Taco Local. Photo by Maija Inveiss

Taco Local is starting its regular hours Monday with a grand opening Thursday. It will be open daily starting at 8 a.m.

In addition to the restaurant, Rodriguez is planning to turn the upstairs area of the building into a speakeasy once he takes over the lease in October of this year. He’s hoping to open the upstairs in spring or early summer 2022. Melted and International Catering Co.’s drive-up restaurant will continue to operate as well.

“We wouldn’t be here in this space doing this super cool thing we’re doing without all of the amazing people,” Rodriguez says. “My advice to everyone is surround yourself with amazing people.”