Go Loco is a new taco fast-casual chain on mission to fill the bellies of travelers along the great highways and byways all across Texas. It's owned in part by Jim Baron, president of Blue Mesa Grill, David Pencsak of TNT Tacos in Austin, along with Ali Sharaf, president of Victron Energy, which has 180 roadside gas stations and "travel centers" throughout Texas. Add to the mix their director of operations, Robert Hauser, who helped start Qdoba. Can you envision the marketing plan yet? It's exactly what you think. A gas station-esque Qdoba that is surprisingly upscale.
Corporate structure details aside, let's chat about the tacos and overall experience. I found myself slightly famished one evening near a Go Loco, which was sandwiched between a massive car wash and a "travel center"(fancy gas station). But, I think we've all learned that the whereabouts of a taco joint says little about the end product.
"All of the restaurants will be paired with a gas station," said Julian Zorrilla with Go Loco. "But, it's a totally different kind of experience."
As for my experience with the food, first let me say this: Never have I written about ice at a restaurant, but the ice at Go Loco is amazing (see photo below). It's somewhere between snow cone ice and crushed ice. I made a Diet Coke snow cone. And I loved it.
The tacos, burritos, nachos and "Chimayo Market Corn" (see photo) were all good as well. I had two chicken verde tacos, which is shredded chicken cooked with tomatillos, serrano and poblano chiles. In the pot, it looks like stew. Covered with the creamy avocado verde salsa, it was great. The two tacos and drink, better known as the Loco Combo, was $3.99.
At this GP location, I counted about nine employees. When I asked about any of the food, (is that shredded pork?) they were quick to offer a sample. They said "hi" and "by" to everyone who walked in and out. They're giddy. Giddy is good to see.
Finally, there's the soft serve, which normally I'm not a fan of. It's like ice cream that gave up. Strictly JV squad (and not even a starter). So, when I saw the soft-serve dispenser, "wha-wha-wha-whaaaa" played in my head.
But, about halfway through our meal, an employee brought around a tray of samples of, what I failed to see was dulce de leche soft serve. What? Dulce de leche? We all hastily dropped our tacos mid-bite for a dessert interlude. A few minutes later she brought the remaining starting-to-melt cups to our table. Second interlude...
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"This is something we get straight from Mexico," Zorrilla excitedly explained. "You can't get it anywhere else here."
Zorrilla said the dulce de leche (at $1.19 per cone) is something the spot is known for, along with the cups of chimayo.
Inside a Go Loco is not at all "travel center"-ish. It's completely shut off from the store; in fact, I didn't even see it. The restaurant is crazy art-deco with cool industrial light fixtures and some extreme color patterns.
Right now Go Loco is planning to build a new spot from ground up at Westmoreland Road and Interstate 30, along with requisite gas station and car wash. They're currently in Alvarado and Crowley, plus this new spot on the GP-Arlington border at Highway 360 and Mayfield and soon Burleson.