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Taco a Go-Go
How do you take your tacos – Urban, Rusty, or Rock’n?
by Kerrie Sparks //

It’s widely accepted that Dallas has jumped head-long into themed snacking and dining.  
First fro-yo, then cupcakes, and now tacos.  Hmm, does that make us cattle; all grouped
together, following the heard…Texas, Longhorns, moo?  Whatever it makes us, we’re
reaping the benefits of some tasty cuisine, and I believe if anything is gonna’ go over like
gangbusters in the Lonestar state, it ought to be tacos!

In this month’s column we talk with Markus Pinyero of Urban Taco, who just opened their
new location on McKinney Ave., Rusty Fenton of Rusty Taco over on Greenville Ave., and
Jose Rodriguez of Rock ‘n’ Taco, also on McKinney Ave.

visit us:
Village on the Green Center
5301 Alpha Road# 10
Dallas, TX 75240
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KS: Who initially came up with the concept for the restaurant?

Myself, in 2007.
Rusty: I’ve been playing with the idea since I did a taqueria concept in 2000 with Stephen Pyles
and Michael Cox, Taqueria Canonita.  That and tacos go great with beer and margaritas.
Rock’n: My partners Avi Adri and Billy Salsberg

KS: What drove the design concept for the space?

Influences from my travels to Mexico and Acapulco; Mexican architecture, Mexico City
street landscapes and coastal spice.
Rusty: The goal was to keep it looking like a gas station that served food.  We had to pull back
our design several times because we did not want it to appear like a gas station that became
a restaurant that sells food.  We also wanted to keep that huge awning to use as our patio,
lots of shade.  It's like those gas station designers knew what they were doing.
Rock’n: There was a need for something inviting on that corner for a long time. We wanted to
put something there that would attract people all hours of the day and night. Dallas love’s
their patios, so we decided to make an indoor/outdoor feel by having doors that slide open.
KS: How did you decide the color palette and the materials you chose to work with?

Urban: We wanted to provide a warm, clean feel.
Rusty: The materials were easy, we simply asked what might we find in a gas station?  The tables
are the same material as the counter at an auto parts store, the cabinets and shelving are
strictly Sears Craftsman garage.   The lighting is industrial.
Rock’n: Hot Pink was something bright enough to be remembered, so we added classic colors
of white , black, and gold along with it. The animal print chairs and the velour wallpaper
added an edgy feel to the room.  We wanted some contrast to keep it different and
added LED lights that change all different colors.

KS: What architect or design team did you work with?

Kuzzu Design.
Rusty: Jones Baker, it was my third project with them.  Great group.  They will do all my future
projects along with Benge Construction.
Rock’n: Duncan Design Group assisted us in coming up with different design ideas for our
unique concept.
urban taco on Mckinney Ave
KS: How important was your location choice in drawing interest from the community, and was
this a key factor for your design and planning?

The concept was already in my head, I just needed a home, and the home provides
the spotlight in this case.
Rusty: The location choice was based on the wide variety of demographics near that
intersection.  We attract students from SMU, business types from Energy Square and the buildings
along Central, as well as commuters, Lakewood and White Rock residents, and the hungry from
the thousands of apartments and condos right behind us.  There is someone in our store all day
long.  We get every demographic!
Rock’n: Definitely, the location was a key factor to our concept.  We chose Uptown Dallas for
our first location as it has become a tremendously popular destination for young professionals.  
Not only are we surrounded by businesses, condominiums and apartments, but Uptown has
become a very popular night and weekend destination for many metroplex residents.  With
that in mind, we wanted to create a unique trendy atmosphere and a fun place to come
unwind after work or just enjoy a night out paired with excellent food and off the wall margaritas.
rock 'n' taco on McKinney Ave
KS: Do you use any sustainable products on your menu, or source any ingredients locally?

We have some new items on the menu that will have sustainable fish. We do source
some herbs and veggies locally as well.
Rusty: Basically, everything is sustainable!  We don't make a big deal about it, most suppliers
are going that way anyway.  I still have to tackle the styrofoam cups though!
Rock’n: We do, some of the meats we use as well as some of our produce are sourced locally.  
We also carry a couple of organic wines and we are coming up with an organic margarita.

KS: In your opinion, what’s the best thing on the menu?

Maple habanero glazed steak or tacos al pastor from our rotisserie grill.
Rusty: All the tacos are like my children, although some are adopted!  I love the #2 Pulled
Pork Taco- simply rubbed with salt, pepper and garlic and roasted for four hours, then we
top it with pickled red onions and cotija cheese.  I will confess that I have a Baja Shrimp
Taco almost every day.
Rock’n: The Rock Your Own Taco, which lets you pick four tacos from our traditional tacos
list, the type of tortilla and the fixings you want on each taco.  It includes rice and black
beans, so you get to try a lot of our menu items while enjoying a full meal.  For sweets I
have to go with the homemade churros.

KS to Urban: What made you decide to add an additional location on McKinney Ave.,
in addition to your Mockingbird Station location?  

Uptown is a great demographic for many restaurants and in particular for what we
are doing, there is also no concept similar to what we are doing in the Uptown area.
KS to Rusty: What made you decide you would like to rehab an existing space, in this case,
an old gas station?

I thought it would be fun to sell tacos from a gas station, it has a great look and screams
casual, which is our anti-fine dining theme.  I also appreciated the obvious irony!  It feels like
something you might find in Austin.

KS to Rock’n: What made you decide you wanted to open such a funky taco joint in Dallas, TX?

We saw the need for a fast, casual, modern taco restaurant tailored to the Dallas
community.  It used to be you could only get traditional tacos at hole in the wall Mexican
places, which most people would be scare to go into, or drive to.  We wanted to create
a concept that would bring traditional tacos to the Dallas mainstream in a place that is fun
and chill to hang out.  We also put a twist on the traditional tacos by creating our specialty
tacos that are bound to satisfy every palate.
KS: The next best thing to sliced bread is?
Avocado lime crema.
Rusty: A fresh tortilla.
Rock’n: Tortillas.

KS: Flour or corn tortillas?
Our made to order corn tortillas.
Rusty: Corn, muy authentico.
Rock’n: Corn.

KS: Favorite websites/blogs?
Rusty: I follow SideDish and Teresa Gubbins.
Rock’n: I recently joined Facebook, it’s quite addictive.

KS: Last song/album you downloaded to your iPod?
Deadmau5 - Ghost ‘n’ Stuff (Nero remix).
Rusty: A local guy, Jayson Bales, and the Charmers - good Texas and Americana music.
Rock’n: The Killers.

KS: You’re on a stranded island and a plane makes a food drop.  What do you hope is in that crate?
Dos Equis Amber barbacoa from Urban Taco.
Rusty: A pizza!  Can't have tacos for every meal!
Rock’n: Food from Rock ‘n’ Taco!

Okay, I’ve armed you with all the info you need to embark on a ‘Tour de Taco’.  Grab some
friends, go forth and enjoy, and by all means personalize it.  Hot sauce?  Heck yes!  Meats
marinated in beer?  Why, it’s only natural.  Avocados?  Haven’t we established by now in this
state that they classify as a condiment?  If not, then it should be adopted by the City Hall at
least.  I gotta’ go make a call to the mayor.
Urban Taco                                                   Rusty Taco                                         Rock ‘n’ Taco
3411 McKinney Ave.                              4802 Greenville Ave.                             2916 McKinney Ave
Dallas, TX 75204                                          Dallas. TX 75204                                      Dallas. TX 75204                            
Kerrie Sparks is the art director of a North Texas arts and architecture magazine
and has quite the foodie following at

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