Friday, July 20, 2018

[EXCLUSIVE] Velvet Taco Venturing to Atlanta For New Restaurant

Dallas, Texas-based Velvet Taco plans to enter the Atlanta market next year with a location in Buckhead.  The restaurant, to be located at Buckhead Market Place on West Paces Ferry Road, would open in a large portion of the current 5,915 square foot The North Face store along West Paces Ferry Road.  The North Face opened a new store in Lenox Square last year which ToNeTo Atlanta previously reported would be instead of, rather than in addition to, the West Paces store.  

The North Face, owned by Greensboro, North Carolina-based VF Corp, signed what sources say was a ten year lease in early 2008 for their store at Buckhead Market Place.  The closure of the store, expected to take place at the end of August, should roughly coincide with the end of the store's lease.  

ToNeTo Atlanta first got wind of the planned closure and restaurant opening early this year, and for months has essentially been given variations of  "no comment" from the parties involved.  

Launched in 2011, Velvet Taco is part of Front Burner Restaurants, which also created the Twin Peaks restaurant chain, among other concepts.  There are currently eight Velvet Taco locations, seven of which are in Texas with a single unit in Chicago.  Another two locations are confirmed but not yet open in Dallas and Austin.  

Front Burner never responded to ToNeTo Atlanta's multiple inquiries.  Amy Fingerhut, First Vice President with CBRE, who previously represented the concept locally, had no comment on our inquiry.  Herbert Ames,  Senior Vice President - Southeast, Development for Edens, which owns the center, said that he couldn't speak to our inquiry.  

Employees at The North Face had previously denied the store was closing but as of this week have confirmed that it will close by the end of August.  The Edens website has also been updated to identify the retailer's space as "Coming Available." 

Late last year, Velvet Taco opened a new location in Dallas in place of a shuttered Pollo Tropical restaurant.  The taco joint made use of the inherited drive-thru and unlike its other locations, offers it as an option to its customers.  [There are plenty of former Pollo Tropical restaurants in metro Atlanta too, but likely none in areas that would be appealing to Velvet Taco].

With a tagline of  "Tacos without borders," Velvet Taco features a wide variety of worldly tacos made from beef, chicken, pork and fish as well as veggie tacos such as "Nashville Not Tofu," fried paneer and falafel.  Pricing likely differs by location, but at the Velvet Taco in Montrose, a neighborhood in Houston, a bacon and egg frittata goes for $3.25, while the Nashville Hot Tofu is $3.50 and its taco menu tops out at a $6.75 Ahi tuna taco.   

Although the Velvet Taco website does not explain its name, the restaurant does offer some tacos on hibiscus corn tortillas, which are red velvet in color and also offers red velvet cake for dessert.  

Velvet Taco is similar to bartaco, a concept that was purchased earlier this year by Del Frisco's and already has three locations open in Atlanta in Chastain Park, West Midtown and Inman Park.  While Velvet Taco has a more diverse taco menu, bartaco has a more diverse overall menu with a greater variety of non-taco options.  While both restaurants are casual in atmosphere and moderate in price, Velvet Taco is counter service format whereas bartaco is full-service.  

One exciting aspect of Velvet Taco's opening is the idea that they would bring their late night dining hours to Atlanta.  Judging from the hours of existing locations, most Velvet Tacos are open until at least midnight during the week, and until as late as 5 am on weekends.  For those who work in the service industry or in late night jobs, the idea of a "better than fast food" late night option will surely be a welcome addition to the area.   

In late 2016, Velvet Taco received a “significant strategic growth investment” from private-equity firm L Catterton to fuel their growth.  Greenwich, CT-based L Catterton has previously invested in a variety of restaurant and fitness concepts including hopdoddy Burger Bar, Protein Bar & Kitchen, Peloton, Equinox, snap kitchen, and Chopt, among others.  

If Velvet Taco does open in a portion of The North Face, it would mark the return of a restaurant to the space.  La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe occupied the space for many years before closing in 2007.  

Buckhead Market Place, anchored by Whole Foods Market, was acquired by Edens in 2013 for $40 million.  In addition to Whole Foods, the center is home to Bluemercury, a Macy's-owned boutique cosmetics store and Van Michael Salon.   

Have you ever been to a Velvet Taco?  Are you excited about the prospect of a high-quality late night dining option?  If Velvet Taco did open additional locations in Atlanta, where would you like to see them open?

Please share your thoughts below  


Theron Sapp said...

Oh the excitement. Another fancy taco joint in Buckhead.

Unknown said...

Roswell Ga ... I’ve lived here 40 years and we still don’t have a decent taco place !
Is it a franchise or corporate owned ?

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