When I moved to Leander two months ago, I noticed a restaurant just down the road from where I live. It immediately caught my eye with the name “Guaco Taco” and an Avocado as the logo. If you know me, you know that I LOVE avocados and anything involving guacamole, so I knew right away that this place was a must-visit while I was in Austin. The first time I entered the building, I instantly fell in love. Pictures of delicious looking food hung the walls ( I am a firm believer that you eat with your eyes first) and I don’t think a single staff member had ever known a stranger by the way they all greeted me like I was an old friend.
Being a party of one, I sat at the bar so I didn’t take up a whole table. Debating with myself over what to order, I finally settled on the nachos. When I ordered the waitress asked: “do you like beef?”. I audibly laughed and explained that I was interning for the Texas Beef Council and I literally would not have even been there if I didn’t like beef. As I sat there eating my nachos and drinking my (absolutely fantastic) margarita, the woman sitting next to me started chatting. “How’s your margarita?” she asked. “It’s really good!” I replied. “Yeah, they worked really hard to perfect it”. I questioned how she knew that information and as fate would have it, this woman was the owner’s stepdaughter, Sarah. I quickly asked if her step-mom would be interested in allowing me to write about Guaco Taco on my blog, and she was!
I met with her the next week and learned that Guaco Taco was founded on a love for food and a vision. Mardy, the owner, moved to Texas from California and quickly appreciated the Mexican influence found in the food here like it is in southern California. However, Tex-Mex just wasn’t the same. “I’m not complaining about Tex-Mex”, Mardy says, “I love it. I love it. I love the refried beans. I’ll eat it and I won’t complain about it, but what I found was a lack of really fresh [not canned or processed] food.” After selling a previous business, she knew she had to make a living and wasn’t ready to retire. So, she set out to try to make something else. “My goal here is to have really good, fresh food, and the only way I knew how to do that was to make it in small batches and make it fresh,” she told me. During my conversation with her stepdaughter the first time I visited, Sarah told me that the menu was all the cooking that she had grown up on, and all the recipe’s Mardy had been making for as long as she can remember.
Mardy started her “experiment store” that she calls “Guaco 1” in Cedar Park, Texas in March of 2017. Guaco 1 is where they did a majority of their recipe testing to make sure the dishes were absolutely perfect before placing them on the menu. Mardy expressed thoroughly to me how important getting the recipes just right was to her and her business values. “We’re not corporate. If there’s something I don’t like, it comes right off of the menu!” Mardy believes that fresh ingredients are key to great food and her restaurant’s success. Every item in her restaurant has been tested by her, her family, and her friends; and every dish that comes out is made with food made that very same day and on-site, right down to the chips! She even shared a story with me about a time she walked into the kitchen to test a dish and it seemed just a little off. She kept going back to it finally to find out they had used a canned ingredient because they ran out of the fresh one. “I told you she’d notice!” Her kitchen help jokingly told the cook.
When she saw the opportunity to open a new restaurant with more space and opportunity for a menu with more options, she took it. Now she is serving amazing food to both the Leander and Cedar Park communities. There have been rumors of a third Guaco Taco location opening in possibly Round Rock, or Georgetown, Texas depending on how well the Leander location does.
I must say that one of my favorite things about this restaurant is that just about everything comes with guacamole! This makes my heart so happy since its usually nearly $1 extra to your meal, but not at Guaco Taco! She got her inspiration for guacamole in Guadalajara, Mexico where she witnessed a lady make the best guac that had ever met her tastebuds. “This is how guacamole should be!” she said. Although it’s not advertised this way, Guaco Taco is also 100% gluten-free! However this wasn’t intentional, “it’s just the way I cook”, Mardy says. She chose not to advertise as “gluten-free” simply to not alienate any potential customers. You will also only find 100% Certified Angus Beef in the meals at Guaco Taco. This is simply because when testing products, Mardy believed the certified Angus had a better flavor than the other meats she tried. She may be on to something here since the Beef dishes are her top sellers #beefitswhatsfordinner.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Mardy what she wanted people to feel when they came to Guaco Taco. She answered without hesitation, a fun place where they know they can get fresh food and a great eating experience; this boss lady has definitely accomplished this! Guaco Taco is always a fun, environment. What’s even greater, you can see Mardy’s heart and her passion come out in her employees who all seemingly love their jobs and take pride in their work. Unfortunately, that can be hard to find in the food service industry, but Guaco Taco doesn’t like to fit into the norms in any category it seems.
So the next time you’re in the Noth Austin area, make sure you visit Guaco Taco! Try the Shrimp Tacos (Mardy’s favorite), Jose’s Breakfast Quesadilla (my favorite), and have a perfectly perfected Margarita! Oh, and make sure you ask for a cup of ice cream that they give out complimentary just because, “We thought that would be a nice touch” -Mardy. That again speaks to the character and values of Mardy and the entire Guaco Taco family. Great values, fantastic food, can’t beat it!
P.S. And TODAY happens to be the Leander location’s GRAND OPENING! So stop by for sampling, prizes, and a great time!