Does Denver need Texans coming to Colorado to take over the taco trade? Only if they're "damn good." Austin-based Torchy's Tacos hopes Denverites will agree with the company's motto when it opens at 1085 Broadway on Tuesday, February 2 — the first of five Torchy's planned for the Front Range in the coming year.
Founder Michael Rypka, a former corporate executive chef whose résumé includes MTV Studios, Disney and the World Bank, started Torchy's in 2006 out of a trailer in Austin and grew the concept to 35 Texas locations. This location will be the first outside of Texas. Torchy's director of marketing, Brittany Platt, explains that Colorado was chosen because of its similarities to Austin: young, fun and rapidly growing. And rather than spread taco shops across multiple states, Torchy's decided to keep its growth outside of the Lone Star State to a small region in order to make distribution, training and quality control more efficient.
In 2016, Colorado will see Torchy's locations pop up at 8281 Northfield Boulevard in the new Conservatory Stapleton development, at 88th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard in Westminster, and at 8505 East Arapahoe Road in Greenwood Village. But first up will be a freestanding Torchy's at the Foothills Mall redevelopment site in Fort Collins, which could open as early as April. The Colorado locations — like all Torchy's stores — are company-owned rather than franchised.
So what, exactly, is a Texas taco? Torchy's doesn't fall into the typical Tex-Mex mix, but prides itself on unique tacos built around textural contrasts and flavors built from fresh ingredients, like salsas made from scratch every day. You'll find such Austin favorites as molten green-chile queso served with tortilla chips, migas breakfast tacos (a mix of scrambled eggs and tortilla strips) and shredded pork carnitas. But there are also original creations like the Trailer Park (fried chicken atop a bed of green chiles), the Brushfire (Jamaican jerk chicken with mango and grilled jalapeño), and the Orange (blackened salmon with black bean and corn salsa). And if the already sizable menu isn't enough for you, there are monthly specials and a secret menu. (Just head to the Torchy's website and click Enter anywhere on the screen; decoding the reverse recording is up to you.)
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The new Torchy's also has a full bar with house cocktails (including signature margaritas), draft beer and daily happy-hour specials. But this isn't just a nighttime taqueria: Because breakfast tacos are a big deal in Austin, Torchy's will open at 7 a.m. weekdays (8 a.m. weekends).
For those who miss Moontower Tacos, which closed up shop last fall, Torchy's will be a satisfying addition to the neighborhood. And if you can't wrap your head around the idea of loving something from Texas, just think of Torchy's as Colorado tacos — with a twang.
For more photos of Torchy's inside and out, see our complete slideshow.