Bites Nearby: The Original El Taco

Not your average taco joint.

opened its doors in Oct. 2008. A part of the Fifth Group family of restaurants, El Taco has a Mexican inspired flair in its decor and menu.

Katie Pecharich is the general manager for the restaurant. Pecharich has been in the restaurant business since she was 14, helping in her parents' cafe in Illinois. Katie started as the beverage manager at El Taco in 2010 and moved to her current position in May of this year.

Chef Scott Keefer learned a lot about food while working for five years at Echo, another Fifth Group restaurant. Under the tutelage of the executive chef there, Keefer would be challenged to take away ingredients from dishes in order to showcase a particular flavor or idea in his food. Scott, originally from Dalton, moved into his position as executive chef for El Taco in August of this year.

Patch: What are some of your most popular dishes?

Scott: Our guacamole has been listed numerous times in Best of the City. It's very simple ingredients so you can taste the avacado. Our fried chicken taco is probably our most popular item. We've been known to sell over 200 of these tacos in a night. It's made with real Mexican corn, spicy mayo and cotija cheese. The chorizo tacos are also very popular. We grind our own chorizo sausage here. One of the newest dishes that we just added are chiles en nogada. They're poblano peppers stuffed with a sweet and spicy meat topped with an almond sauce and pomegranate seeds. It's actually a dish that is traditionally served for Mexican Independence Day because it's red, white and green like the Mexican flag.

Patch: What is the atmosphere you have tried to create at The Original El Taco?

Katie: Fun, lively and exciting. It's interesting because we have a great mix of clientele that come in. Our early crowd is all of our wonderful local families that come and walk to us. Our later crowd tends to be our local families without small children. But whether it's five o'clock or eight o'clock we tend to have a lively, fun atmosphere.

Patch: What makes El Taco unique?

Katie: Definitely our Wheel of Taco sets us apart. We hand tokens to each person at the door when they walk in. We spin the wheel at the top of every hour and they can win anything from a $25 gift card to a pitcher of margaritas to a free t-shirt. I also think El Taco is a mix of the Austin tex-mex that you expect at a Mexican restaurant with a gastronomic culinary side where we do fun things like the fried chicken tacos but at the same time we also make the chiles en nogada.

Patch: What is something guests may not realize on their first visit to The Original El Taco?

Katie: One that we are part of Fifth Group. Also that we are open for lunch on the weekends. Even some of our guests that are regulars are surprised by that. We also have a salsa bar that has five house recipe salsas and two kinds of pickled vegetables. 

Located at 1186 N. Highland Ave., The Original El Taco is open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. for dinner and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. for dinner. The restaurant also offers a themed dinner on the second Tuesday of every month for 24 guests. Reservations for the dinners can be made either at the restaurant or by phone. For more information visit the The Original El Taco website.


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