Mike Rangel and his crew at Asheville Pizza and Brewing have built a rock-solid following for serving up hot pies and cold pints since 1999. Now the company is trying something different with its latest project, the drive-thru Asheville Tacos and Taps, which will finally open just after Christmas at 705 Merrimon Ave. — Rangel is shooting for Tuesday, Dec. 27.
The spot has been occupied by a string of other eateries: Backyard Burgers, Vegheads and, more recently, Brat Burger. But Tacos and Taps will go in a different direction.
Selections will include high-end, made-to-order tacos and refillable growlers of craft beer. The brew line has 12 taps — three of which will feature Asheville Brewing Co. beers. Three will be reserved for members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, three will feature North Carolina products, and three will be dedicated to breweries based elsewhere.
For starters, growlers will hold either 32 or 64 ounces, but a 128-ounce bottle is also in the works. One of the drive-thru’s two windows will be reserved just for growler sales.
And Asheville Brewing has already sold out of its first stock of fancy, 130-ounce double-jacketed metal growlers that include a small carbon dioxide system to hold carbonation. More of those are on the way, Rangel says.
He gives a lot of credit for the project to his longtime business partner, Corey Gates. “He really saved our bacon — as he has many times — by insisting we go big and install a new hood and big grill,” says Rangel. “He took that scruffy spot and turned it into something cool.”
The Tacos and Taps project has been under consideration “for a couple of years,” Rangel says. “We were waiting for a moment to commit to it. The concept was made just for this location. It’s not something we wanted to do anywhere else.
“We are big taco freaks,” he adds. “You can’t eat pizza all the time. Whenever my wife, Allison, and I go to Austin or San Diego, tacos are one of the first things we check out.”
This year has seen a big taco boom in Asheville, with several spots opening around town. But Rangel doesn’t see the other businesses as competitors. “As someone who has been in the beer business, a cluster [of nearby breweries] makes everyone’s beer a little better. That is how we are looking at tacos,” he says.
The taco menu will feature high-end ingredients with no high-fructose corn syrup. Chips and tortillas will be non-GMO, and the business will not use Styrofoam serving containers.
Customers can choose from meat, vegetarian or vegan selections. Soft tortillas or crunchy shells will be available, both lard-free.
Tacos will range from the $3 gringo (ground beef, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream) to the $4.50 ahi tuna and the $5 vegan Diablo Verde (No Evil Foods plant-based protein, roasted red pepper sauce, onion, cilantro on a soft corn tortilla). There’s also a selection of house-made sauces and extras such as guacamole, black beans and rice, and black bean dip.
And then there’s something called the Walking Taco — an individual bag of Fritos or Doritos covered with ground beef, lettuce, cheese and pico de gallo for $5. Another highlight will be breakfast tacos. (The shop will be open 7 a.m.-10 p.m.) While the tacos will be made to order, Rangel says he expects to move customers through the line quickly, depending on the size of their orders.
Rangel had originally planned to open Tacos and Taps last summer, but he decided to take more time to get the business in the shape he wanted. “We are really excited to get this project off the ground,” he says. “If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t want to do it.”
Tacos and Taps opens Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 705 Merrimon Ave., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hours will be 7 a.m.-10 p.m. More details and updates are available on the restaurant’s Facebook page.