“If I could eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be breakfast tacos,” says Hunter Berry, owner of the soon-to-open TacoBilly restaurant on Haywood Road.
Compared with the perhaps better-known breakfast burrito, the breakfast taco — a long-standing food favorite in Berry’s native Austin, Texas — is bigger on the filling, lighter on the tortilla. And Berry and his wife, Beth, have their sights set on sharing their love of this concept with Asheville.
TacoBilly, which is scheduled to begin a long soft-opening period this weekend, will serve breakfast and lunch with the focus on those morning tacos. Think various combinations of eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage and veggies served on corn, flour or house-made plantain tortillas.
A highlight will be the Tex-Mex classic migas, a mix of eggs, fried tortilla strips, tomato, jalapeno and cheese all melted together with a chili-garlic sauce. “In Austin, the breakfast taco is king,” says Hunter Berry, “and migas seems to be the king of the breakfast tacos.”
The Berrys, who moved to Asheville with their children a year ago after four years living in the Chiapas and Tulum regions of Mexico, have also crafted an eclectic selection of lunch tacos. TacoBilly’s menu, says Hunter, is “a blend of our time in Mexico and growing up in Texas.”
It’s also a collaborative effort. Friends from all over the U.S. and Mexico contributed their knowledge and advice for starting the venture, which is Berry’s first foray into the restaurant industry following a career in solar energy. His nephew Nieman Beadle, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin, and Beadle’s childhood friend Nicholas Gallina relocated from Austin to Asheville to lend their help and expertise in the kitchen.
At lunch, there will be the familiar ground-beef taco with lettuce, tomato, cheese and guacamole. Chicken offerings get more adventurous, with choices such as a fried-chicken taco with mango slaw and sriracha aioli and a chicken tinga with chipotle-stewed chicken, queso fresco, avocado and creamy chipotle sauce. Pork lovers can choose from the carnitas with roasted pork, pickled onion, queso fresco and jalapeno ranch or a classic Mexican morita with chili-stewed pork, slaw and jalapeno cream.
Berry also aims to make nonmeat eaters feel at home. “We want vegans and vegetarians to feel excited about our tacos,” he says. “It will be something besides beans and rice.” One offering will be a sweet potato taco with black beans, pecans, avocado and coconut crema.
There will be a selection of sides available, including Mexican street corn and rajas, a dish of roasted poblano peppers cooked in cream with onions. Banana pudding made from a family recipe will top the dessert menu, and drinks will include fruit aguas frescas, such as watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew, and possibly horchata, a sweet Mexican rice milk. Canned and bottled beer, wine and a limited selection of cocktails will also be available.
Fresh corn tortillas will be delivered daily to the restaurant from a tortilleria in Woodfin, and the baked plantain tortillas will made in-house — they have the consistency of a flour tortilla or a crepe, says Berry. He plans to use only non-GMO oils and purchase many ingredients through Mountain Food Products, as well as sourcing produce and pasture-raised meat products from local farms and tailgate markets. He is currently searching for a local source of fresh eggs from pastured chickens.
Prices for tacos should be around the $3.50 mark. Berry says he’s aiming to provide breakfast for around $6 and lunch for around $10, depending on what patrons order.
TacoBilly isn’t huge — the indoor area seats a tight 24 at a few tables and a bar along one wall, two picnic tables on the front patio seat six people each and a back deck seats 14. But the atmosphere may end up being as much of a draw as its food.
The building was constructed in the 1920s and has over the years been a grocery store, a day-old bread store and, most recently, a thrift store. The Berrys have done major renovations to the structure, including a new roof, new electrical and plumbing and fresh drywall and paint. Large new windows in the indoor dining area let in lots of sunlight, and a pleasant color scheme of grays and blues accented with aqua and red makes the cozy room feel vibrant.
Along one wall hangs a motley collection of old landscape paintings sourced from thrift stores and yard sales (“We have about a $3 to $5 budget for each painting,” jokes Hunter), and within each picture, TacoBilly’s mascot — the sassy orange billy goat logo designed by Hornaday Designs — makes an appearance.
Eventually, they plan to cover the back deck and extend the dining and hanging-out area into the building’s backyard. “We really hope to kind of create a family-friendly neighborhood place where people will want to hang out, drink beer and have a margarita,” says Hunter.
Although Asheville already boasts a number of taco shops, some of which have nearly fanatic followings, Berry says he definitely sees a place for TacoBilly. “I think there’s plenty of room here for people to be creative. We’re a little different,” he says. “I think we’re the first shop that’s focused on offering breakfast tacos. … We’re bringing a new breakfast concept to Asheville, bringing something from Texas, and I think people are going to love it.”
TacoBilly is at 201 Haywood Road and will be open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. A soft opening is scheduled to kick off at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. For updates, look for TacoBilly on Facebook.