Prolific Northern Virginia restauranteur Mike Cordero is ready to try the fast-casual game on for size with the debut of Taco Rock in Rosslyn in July.
Even though the opening of his first surf-and-turf taco and tequila spot is still a few months out, he’s already making moves to turn the new brand into a chain.
“We are looking in D.C. and other parts of Northern Virginia,” he tells Eater, adding he’s close to signing a second lease deal for Taco Rock.
The inaugural 50-seat location is expected to slide into the 2,400-square-foot space formerly occupied by Spinfire Pizza (1501 Wilson Boulevard) in July. An opening date originally slated for May was pushed back due to construction delays. Demolition is now underway, and Cordero’s team has begun securing permits.
“It’s one of our best-looking restaurants so far,” Cordero says, adding the space will feature graffiti murals, neon lighting, and a gigantic guitar hovering above diners’ heads.
Cordero, who co-owns millennial-friendly Clarendon bars Don Tito and G.O.A.T., is looping in his sons Nick and Anthony Cordero for his ninth NoVa project. Stefano Marzano, executive chef and owner of MightyMeals, is also a partner.
While they await construction, the restaurant group has been tinkering with taco recipes in its test kitchen.
Offbeat tacos in the works include the “Figgy Piggy” (slow roasted pork with sweet and savory fig glaze), and a banh mi-inspired variety filled with grilled pork belly, Vietnamese slaw, and cilantro.
“We scoped out all the popular taco places in the area and I think our tacos are going to be amazing,” Cordero says.
Taco Rock is using blue corn flour to make its own tortillas from scratch — a rare move for a fast-casual taco shop, he claims. The restaurant also hopes to stand out of the crowded quick-serve market with a 20-seat tequila bar. Imported Mexican beers will run $5-$7 and cocktails will be about $8-$10, he notes.
Traditional Mexican desserts also get a twist at Taco Rock. A batter made of churros will be shaped into a taco, then filled with ice cream and made to order in three minutes in front of the customer.
The playlist at Taco Rock will be big on old school rock music to pay homage to the “rock” part of its name. Northern Virginia just got another taco shop packed with grungy-cool vibes with the arrival of Chop Shop Taco in Alexandria this month.
Cordero has another big Arlington construction project on his plate: converting A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston into a German beer hall called Bronson. That project is expected to open around the same time as Taco Rock.
To celebrate the upcoming 1-year anniversary of his Rockwood Sports Bar in Gainesville, Virginia, Cordero has a party scheduled for Saturday, June 1, that will feature a barbecue pit with whole roasted pig, a reggae band, and lots of giveaways.