Friday, June 22, 2012
Taco Villa opens first DFW outlet in Benbrook
Cult favorite taco chain from West Texas.
BENBROOK For those who have had just about enough of California chains like In-N-Out and Trader Joe's and Del Taco coming into Dallas and getting everyone in a lather, Taco Villa out of Odessa is your answer.
This West Texas fast-food Tex-Mex chain opened its first Dallas-area branch in Benbrook this week, an opening that has spurred a mini-In-N-Out kind of fervor, evident on a Facebook page named Taco Villa Fanatics, whose 1,084 (and counting) followers are either tickled about the new opening, or begging for one in their neighborhood.
Founded in Odessa in 1961 by restaurateur Bobby Cox, Taco Villa built a following as a homegrown favorite, said spokesman Matt Kremzar.
"We made our living out there in Midland, Odessa, and Amarillo, and it's very much a cult brand," Kremzar said. "When I talk to people, grown men and women, who grew up there, they tear up and tell me a story about eating cheese burritos and Friday Night Lights -- it's how they grew up."
Part of why fans hold it dear is that it nearly died, Kremzar said.
"Founder Bobby Cox had experience with Del Taco in California when he came back to Odessa and started Taco Villa," he said. "It was sold in the '80s, but the people he sold it to ran it into the ground, then came back and said, 'Would you like to buy the name back?' We're now at 18 or 19 branches, but this is our first into the Metroplex."
In addition to the branch in Benbrook, there are locations in Odessa, Midland, Amarillo, Big Spring, Andrews, and Canyon, and in Hobbs, N.M.
Taco Villa is also adept at stoking customer loyalty, with promotions such as the one in which it features fans raving in its commercials. (And by the way, a staffer emphasized that it is pronounced Villa, to rhyme with Willa -- not Veeeya, like the Spanish pronunciation.)
Menu highlights include tacos, tostadas, chalupas, green sauce and red sauce burritos, the quirky "taco burger," and the crunchy "Guadalajara."
Robin Phillips-Johnson, a Taco Villa fanatic, said she grew up on it in Lubbock.
"We had Taco Bells, but Taco Villa was the bomb," she said. "Taco Bell was too chainy -- Taco Villa felt more homegrown than a big chain. It was more local. And it was right by Texas Tech so it was definitely a college favorite."
She went to the Benbrook branch on opening day, ordering a meat burrito and a Guadalajara.
"Their red sauce is insane," she said. "Their green sauce is good, and their taco meat is good and small -- that sounds weird, but it's chopped up finely. They make all their food there. And they have really good ice. Ice is so underrated."
To quote a Facebooker:
"Them Callifornyuns can honk on about In-N-Out Burgers and Trader Joe's, we old Lubbockers can honk about Taco Villa!"
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