A couple weeks back, we stumbled upon the news of a new restaurant coming to The Woodlands. What we didn’t know was that this new restaurant is actually the reincarnation of an old restaurant, and what that means to the thousands of fansTaco USA has across Texas – most especially from Nacogdoches. So we sat down with owners Chad Byers and Jeff Rhame to get the whole story.
It all started with pizza. Chad’s father, Ottis Byers, had several years of continuous success with a company called Pizza Management International, a company that later became the largest Pizza Hut franchisee. Wanting to branch out, PMI created Taco USA and opened their first location in Del Rio, Texas in 1976. The relevance of the year inspired the theme for the name and logo, as it was the nation’s bicentennial. However, within the first two years and two stores (the second was in Lufkin) it became glaringly obvious to everyone that PMI, a company known for their success with pizza had no business attempting Tex-Mex, and Taco USA nearly became a short-lived pipe dream. Thankfully, Ottis was well-aware of what the real problem was (it was the food. It was awful.) and had the wherewithal to change the recipes… After buying Taco USA from PMI. Such a simple answer, but as thousands of SFA alumni can attest to, the right one.
While the Byers family owned and operated Taco USA, it was truly a family venture. Ottis and Mrs. Byers could be found behind the counter and one or another location just about any time, ensuring the quality and integrity of every dish they served; an uncommon sight at your ‘typical’ fast food joint. Jeff began working at Taco USA in Nacogdoches at 15 years old, joined by his childhood friend Chad a couple of months later, when he turned 15 as well. Though Jeff would move on after just a couple of years to pursue a successful year in financial planning, Chad stayed with the family business – working his way up the ladder and managing the two Nacogdoches locations for many years. Taco USA proved to be overwhelmingly successful with Ottis Byers at the helm for the next 14 years, until, called to move his life in a different direction, Mr. Byers sold the business to some first-time restaurateurs. The new owners made significant changes to the menu, which would prove fatal – Taco USA closed it’s doors only two years later in 1994.
But that was then. Now, nearly 20 years later, Chad and Jeff are planning on opening the first new Taco USA right here in The Woodlands – at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center on South Millbend and Switchbud Place. And while an in-line, store-front location is one of the major differences between this new incarnation of Taco USAand the stand-alone, self-contained locations of yore, the other potential differences will actually be very few.
For starters, Taco USA is still very much in the family – Chad Byers, having recently dissolved his transportation company, is intimately involved in every step of the process of bringing Taco USAback. Not only does he have all of the original recipes perfected by his parents, as a one-time manager and life-long foodie, he has first-hand experience at crafting all of those memorable dishes.
When he’s not working with the electrician, contractor or architect, Chad is in the kitchen re-creating the Taco Burgers, burritos, chorizitos and Conquistadors.
Chad is also working with suppliers to ensure only the best quality ingredients are going to be utilized. “Fast food doesn’t have to be low-quality,” Chad told us. “There’s no reason good ingredients can’t be used and still served at prices that everyone can afford.” And just like it was all the way back in the ’70s, everything will be made fresh.
Prep work in the kitchen starts as early as 6:00 AM for an 11:00 AM lunch service. And some preparation – like the infamous red beans Taco USA is known for – actually begins the night before. “The beans have to be red. They aren’t called ‘brown beans’ or just ‘beans,’ they’re red beans,” Chad explained. They don’t come in a can to be scooped out into a steamer dish. Taco USA‘s red beans take the better part of a day to make, from scratch, every time.
Though Taco USA is a fast food restaurant at heart, the personal touches and potential conveniences are apparent in the details. For example, parents arriving with infants and toddlers in tow will appreciate high chairs on casters available right when you enter, so children can be safely seated without keeping your arms full while you place your order at the counter. Additionally, though you order at the counter, your meal will be delivered to your table by a server. The menu is diverse enough that those seeking a gluten-free meal, vegetarian alternatives and a selection of kid-friendly choices in smaller portions. There are even a few burgers and fries on the menu, should someone in your party not be in the mood for Tex-Mex. Taco USA is also building out a full patio, allowing for diners to enjoy the potential cool breezes off of Lake Harrison to the north of the center.
Whether a long-time fan or a potential new customer, from the sounds of things you’ll find something you love at Taco USA when they open this winter. We know we’re looking forward to it!
Taco USA is located at the Grogan’s Mill Village Center, between Woodforest National Bank and The UPS Store. For more information about Taco USA, check out their Facebook page, and find them in The Woodlands Events.com restaurant directory. Chad Byers has since left the organization and Jeff has continued the business model, making constant improvements and Taco USA has been thriving since 2013.