Uptown gets spicy

Within the heart of Uptown Waterloo lays a hidden culinary gem with a unique take on contemporary, ethnic food: tacos. Who would have thought, right?

“Tacos are just awesome,” laughed Nick Benninger when explaining his newest business enterprise, Taco Farm. “Canada is so lacking in really good places like this.”

Referred to as a “taco bar,”, Taco Farm promises authentic Mexican-style dishes without the clichés.

“We try and stick to the Mexican roots of the cooking,” Benninger explained.
“We know our mom’s aren’t going to hit us with a wooden spoon when we get home for bastardizing the recipe,” he joked.

Benninger, along with his wife, Nat, and friend, Ryan Good, opened up Taco Farm this summer and have since received much positive feedback.

Taco Farm is their second restaurant service, as the Benninger’s also co-own Nick & Nat’s Uptown 21, while Good is the owner of Chainsaw, a popular bar on King Street.

“When we discussed the different business appeals, a lot of things went into the mix,” Benninger told The Cord when explaining how Taco Farm came to be.

Other possibilities included opening a pizza and pasta house as well as a burger joint.

“We kind of sat there and went over what the city needed the most and what did we really want to do,” he added.

Once settling on the platform of tacos, Benninger explained that much research went into the business. He travelled to Mexican communities in the United States and tried the authentic food that was being sold.

The group wanted to have their own interpretation of that.

“Growing up here [in Canada], we were all exposed to different elements of Latin or Mexican cooking,” he elaborated. “You know, we’ve eaten fajitas, we’ve had Taco Bell or even Old El Paso Tacos.”

“Those things are great, so we wanted to take a huge slice from the traditional column.”

The Taco Farm menu boasts eight different tacos, as well as other items such as fried chicken, ice cream and a large collection of over 40 tequilas.

Their tortillas are made in-house with 100 per cent cornflower, making them gluten free.

“We compare it to a burger joint that not only makes everything that goes into the burger, but the bun as well,” Benninger described. “We try and make sure that it’s genuine.”
The business is intended to appeal to a variety of demographics, as it caters to families, lunch crowds and late-night snackers.

However, Benninger explained that it’s not necessarily the concept that keeps a business open — it’s the service.

“I could point out several businesses within sight of there that had really cool concepts and were really different, but failed because they didn’t execute it properly,” he said.

“Yes, the initial wave of success is because of this very unique space. But we hope to be busy for the next decade based on how good it is when you’re here.”

However, Benninger told The Cord that some criticism has come up since the restaurant opened.

Some customers have allegedly come in with expectations that the tacos would be made with a hard, yellow corn shell, when, in fact, Taco Farm uses soft tortillas.

Other criticisms have derived from the size of the tacos themselves, which are single servings and are smaller than some customers expected.
Nonetheless, Taco Farm presents a new flavor to the collection of Waterloo eateries and has been receiving hundreds of customers daily.

As the first taco-bar of its kind in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Benninger and his partners could not be happier with their business investment.
“We know that we’re doing exactly what we wanted to do,” he said. “We’re really proud.”

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