New taco in town: The Local Taco is officially open on Lexington Avenue

John Ko and chef Matthew Miner Max Cooper
John Ko and chef Matthew Miner Max Cooper

John Ko seems quiet — until he starts talking about margaritas.

The co-owner of The Local Taco says he's sure his restaurant will serve “the best in town” now that it's open in the former Boca space on Lexington Avenue.

Those are big words, but Ko has 25 tequilas and crates of limes to back him up. Plus, the restaurant's patio provides a great vantage point to watch Lexington Avenue while you sip. It benefits from a new solar-powered, retractable awning.

It's a high-profile spot, and Ko, who co-owns four other Local Tacos in Nashville, Tenn., Lexington, Ky., and Greenville, S.C., scoped out Asheville for 2 ½ years before settling on the location. “I wanted this town because I know the city really appreciates the local movement,” he says. “There's all this chatter around town about how we're trying to be this chain, conglomerate, corporate. But it's me. It's just me and Matthew [Miner] doing this store, and I live right around the corner now.”

Miner comes to The Local Taco from The Asheville Public, which closed over the winter. That restaurant was known for its smoked items (including smoked ice cubes). Those smokey flavors will carry over onto the Local Taco’s menu.

Miner says he's excited about the smoked pork belly taco with its molasses and cracked pepper glaze. That taco is an Asheville exclusive, and while the menu does include some Local Taco standards (ones that are served at all five locations), the ingredients will be unique to Western North Carolina, sourced from Ashley, Beulah, Maple Leaf and Jolly farms.

Ko says diners who know Miner's style of cooking can expect to find it on the menu and, particularly, on the specials board. “He's very chef-driven,” Ko says. “He's going to tweak the menu, and we're really going to push the envelope on some creative tacos.”

Miner created a beef tongue taco for Ko to try. “I wasn't really gung-ho about it, but after I had it, I was like, 'That's really good,'” he says, adding that he leaves many of the culinary decisions up to Miner and his other business partners. “I feel like I have a pretty good palate, but I'm not a chef.”

Tacos start at $3 apiece. Other menu items include quesadillas, entree-sized salads and a vegetarian plate. Local Taco will serve lunch and dinner, and in a couple of weeks, it will begin serving brunch on the weekends.

Local Taco, 68 N. Lexington Ave., opens at 11 a.m. daily and closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit thelocaltaco.com.

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