3DI Studio | Tacos with a story at Wicked Taco in Blacksburg
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Tacos with a story at Wicked Taco in Blacksburg

January 11, 2015

BLACKSBURG – For three years Todd Townsend said he searched the country for the “holy grail of taco perfection.”

“Tacos don’t lie, they’re either good or they’re not,” said the 49-year-old Charlotte resident.

Townsend said he never found the perfect taco, but he did retrieve a bounty of knowledge he’s used to create the fast-casual, taco-centered restaurant Wicked Taco, which is set to open its first establishment in Blacksburg next week. The day it will open was not set as of last week.

The restaurant located on Turner Street is set to include made-from-scratch flour and corn tortillas, a custom built oven spit for rotisserie chicken, turkey and roasted vegetables, and a salsa bar, which Townsend said will always include fresh batches of nine traditional Mexican salsas.

“We’ve making tacos to order when you walk in the door. Everything is done in house, everything is done from scratch,” Townsend said.

The menu includes 12 signature tacos, two shrimp and one fish option, six breakfast tacos, and the option to create a custom “naked taco.” All tacos will contain a soft shell, with the most expensive costing $4.50.

Each of the signature and breakfast tacos is made from a recipe Townsend, who is entering his 30th year in the food service industry, created.

The restaurant is also slated to have a handful of vegetarian and gluten-free options and serve beer, all of which will be centered on one theme.

“We want to own the taco,” he said.

Since the fall, Townsend and co-founder Joe Luter of Virginia Beach, have also been working to ensure a sense of ownership is felt in the community by transforming the location into a venue that also reflects the flavor of the area. Luter and Townsend have been friends since their school days in Charlotte.

The tables and much of the wood-decorated walls came from two Shenandoah Valley barns, the restaurant’s music has been dictated by surveys given to Virginia Tech students, and Townsend said he’d already worked out an agreement with local farmers to grow peppers for a salsa unique to the Blacksburg location.

“We don’t want to be a chain … we want to be so that the students and the community feel like this is Virginia Tech owned and Blacksburg owned,” Townsend said.

As a part of that mission, Townsend asked for some decorating help from students of

Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture and Design and the School of Visual Arts.

Tech instructor Chris Pritchett said the owners learned of his work with the Blacksburg Farmers Market and approached him about doing some work for the restaurant. Pritchett chose skateboards for the medium and turned the work into an assignment for about 40 students in a screen printing course last semester.

“The students went out and they made graphics that represented Blacksburg to them and they put them on the boards,” Pritchett said.

The results of their work can be seen on the more than 50 skateboards that hang on walls throughout the restaurant.

Luter said the pair of founders researched several campus, including Raleigh, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina, with populations of 20,000 people or more, but decided Blacksburg was the perfect fit for their pilot location.

“We just didn’t think Blacksburg had anything like this,” he said.

Luter added that a second Wicked Taco location is currently under construction on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh.

Townsend said the restaurant plans to employ about 50 workers to maintain it’s seven-day-a-week schedule of being open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

He added the one thing patrons wouldn’t find at the restaurant during any of those hours was a burrito.

“That’s just who we are, we’re Wicked Taco,” he said.

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