When you’re craving a taco for lunch, Bryan-College Station has no shortage of delicious locales, from Mexican to fusion to traditional taquerias.
Through a new initiative, the “Bryan Taco Trail,” Destination Bryan has found nearly fifty brick and mortar taco shops in Bryan alone, all offering a fresh perspective on this beloved food. Kicking off Sept. 15, the Bryan Taco Trail is intended to remain a permanent initiative of the Bryan’s tourism office, offering diners a chance to check-in across 44 different restaurants to earn prizes and support the local economy.
Abigail Noel, Destination Bryan’s public relations and communications manager, and Class of 2012, said this taco-centric initiative was inspired by a similar event in Kansas City, Kan.
“[The Kansas City Taco Trail] gained a lot of popularity and got a lot of attention from the national press,” Noel said. “There was actually a battle between local newspapers like, ‘Oh, the best tacos in the world aren't where you think they are. This whole [public relations] battle started happening; it was hilarious.”
After hearing about the success in Kansas City, Noel said she and the Destination Bryan team began compiling lists of locally-owned stores with tacos of all types, and they collaborated with a mobile check-in site called Bandwango to share with consumers. Noel said, though overflowing with selections, the initiative may not include the full range of taco offerings within Bryan.
“With Bandwango, we put together the Taco Trail, and we are really excited to have 44 different taco places in Bryan. I'm sure that's not even all of them,” Noel said. “We're really excited for the 44. That's traditional taquerias, Mexican restaurants and even fusion taco places.”
Conveniently, all taco fans have to do is visit the Destination Bryan website and sign up for the Taco Trail, then they are able to check in online to each stop, without the use of a mobile app, fees or having to go through restaurant staff. After five or more visits, participants can earn a variety of prizes, Noel said.
“After five check-ins, you get a Taco Trail t-shirt and a sticker,” Noel said. “After 20 check-ins, you get a custom made salsa that one of the Brazos Valley Farmers Market vendors put together. After you go to all 44, then you get a Taco Trail champion flag and you'll send us a picture and you get put on our ‘Taco Wall of Fame’ on our website.”
In addition to individual incentives, the Taco Trail is also an annual competition for the taco shops, as the location with the most check-ins at the end of September 2022 will earn the first taco trophy, which will be up for grabs annually.
Self-proclaimed taco lover and political science junior Marcus Peña said tacos are one of his favorites because of the customization.
“You can have them on corn tortillas, you can have them with steak, you can have them with fajitas, you can have them with ground beef, you can have them with chicken,” Peña said. “Or street tacos, lettuce, tomato, pico. There’s so many choices.”
After hearing about the Taco Trail, Peña said he’s excited about the challenge and prizes, as well as visiting two of his local favorites.
“Me and my girlfriend were actually wanting to go but we haven’t gone yet,” Peña said. “I love Don Chente’s and I love el sol de Bryan, those are my two favorites.”
At local shops like Jesse’s Taqueria, there’s been a noticeable increase in business since the Taco Trail kicked off, manager Elizabeth Cabada said.
“We’ve been very popular [on the trail] and we’ve seen people from all over the community,” Cabada said. “One day, somebody called and asked if we wanted to be a part of the Taco Trail. Ever since then, we have had a lot more business, a lot of people coming to eat who have mentioned the Taco Trail. It’s very exciting for us.”
Cabada said Jesse’s Taqueria’s freshness and fajitas are what really sets them apart from other taco stops.
“All of our recipes are homemade, and we cook everything,” Cabada said. “All the food is fresh; we never pre-make anything. We sprinkle love on our food. We always try to be different from other taquerias, and we try to get to know everyone personally.”
Noel said that, apart from the delicious food, this initiative has really highlighted the impact that shopping at small businesses can have on the local community, particularly following the challenges of the past year.
“Even with all the fun the Taco Trail is, we're so excited to just be able to help support our local business owners and drive its economic impact,” Noel said. “Especially coming out of COVID-19, things are still unsure for a lot of these small business owners as they're navigating these times, so we're really excited and we hope that everyone just participates and has a lot of fun eating tacos.”