There's a new taco restaurant in town that is primed to be the first of many. Called Happy Taco, it's a new concept from Golden Tree Restaurants, the Richardson-based company that also owns concepts such as Golden Chick, Texadelphia, JC's Burger Bar / Burger House, and Fireside Pies.
The concept made its debut on April 23 in Garland, at 430 E. I-30, 14 miles east of downtown Dallas, next door to a location of its sibling, Golden Chick. It's serving tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, alongside a full bar with beer, wine, margaritas, and more.
The menu covers classic tacos such as pastor with pork shoulder, pineapple, onions, and jalapenos, but also a whole slew of other options that run from buffalo chicken to vegan tacos with black beans and fried avocado.
Golden Tree was founded in 1989, and boasts a family of eight brands include the flagship Golden Chick fried chicken chain with nearly 200 locations.
Happy Taco president Wyatt Hurt, a former president for El Fenix/Firebird Restaurant Group and operations director for the Mooyah Burgers chain, says that Happy Tacos was inspired by the perennial popularity of tacos.
"Tacos are one of the hottest restaurant trends, even more popular than pizzas and burgers, and we felt like we could add something to the mix," he says. "Tacos are so flexible, you can customize them and make them as basic or unique as you want, from mild to exotic, whatever your dietary preferences are."
Happy Taco's menu has Tex-Mex elements that form part of a broader chef-inspired approach, with tacos grouped in categories of pork, seafood, beef, chicken, and veggie.
Given the company's expertise in the chicken category, chicken tacos are an obvious highlight. A Buffalo chicken taco has chicken tenders with potatoes, bacon, jalapeno ranch slaw, and crumbled blue cheese. Habanero fried chicken taco is fearlessly fiery, with spicy chorizo and candied jalapenos.
Six house-made salsas range from mild roasted red to a blazing "Nine Juan Juan."
Other fillings include coconut-crusted shrimp with bacon and jalapenos, and BBQ brisket with fried dill pickles — a clever spin on the meal you'd order at a barbecue restaurant. A vegan taco has grilled portobello mushroom, refried black beans, corn, Mexican rice, and vegan cheese.
Starters include house-made queso blanco, a departure from the usual orange Velveeta, and a stab at esquites-style corn topped with a cilantro-lime aioli.
Prices fall between $3.25 to $3.95, and the tacos are extremely generous in size; two is probably enough for most.
Breakfast tacos are available all day, which is how breakfast food should always be, and feature various combinations of egg, bacon, chorizo, potato, black bean, and cheese. Most are $2.25 except for a chicken & waffles taco, a heavyweight with a fried chicken breast, sunny-side egg, bacon, and maple syrup served on a "waffle tortilla" that's $3.75.
The bar menu includes beer, wine, and an array of cocktails such as the Big Happy, a frozen margarita with a splash of Cointreau orange, and the Killer Tomato, like an extra-extra-spicy version of a bloody Mary.
The restaurant takes over the former Heff's Burgers, which was also a Golden Tree concept. They've updated the interior and freshened the patio with cool pull-down shades that protect from the elements. Service is fast-casual style.
According to Hurt, they're already in negotiations for two more locations in the Dallas area, with a slow and steady rollout of new stores every 3 to 6 months.