The fresh fare and margaritas Will Haver introduced to Crestline seven years ago have made it to
Taco Mama’s Will Haver doesn’t want to admit he likes any one thing at his taqueria more than the others. “You know how that is. That’s like picking your favorite child. You love them in different ways,” he says. And he doesn’t claim to appreciate his mother more than his father, even though the self-proclaimed mama’s boy says the restaurant’s name is an obvious nod to her, the woman who had a positive influence on his life on many levels and who taught him about “food and feel.” But he’s as clear about his vision for Taco Mama now, nearly three months since Shelby County’s first location opened off Alabama 119, as he was when the original location opened in Crestline seven years ago.
“The original vision was to create a neighborhood taqueria that focused on people, delicious food and margaritas, in a funky, fun atmosphere. It is a simple approach with a lot of feel,” Will says. “From day one, we have listened to what people want. We focus on people and food. We are picky about preparing our food and are obsessive about using premium ingredients. Everything plays with us. It’s all important and it adds up to a great experience.”
When talk of opening a Taco Mama in Shelby County started, Will and his team listened to people again. They wanted to find a spot where the taqueria would be a welcome addition to an already thriving community. A space in Cadence Place with a front patio on Cahaba Valley Road seemed like the right fit for the fast-casual taqueria.
“Our COO, Robert Rodriguez, lives around (Alabama) 119, so we knew there were a lot of great people in the area that know great food, and that they would appreciate and be excited for Taco Mama,” Will says. “We chose that location because of its village feel. Cadence Plaza is a little oasis once you turn off (U.S.) 280. We love being next to other good eateries like Bellini’s and Edgar’s in that plaza.”
The overall approach and menu might be the same at all Taco Mama locations, but the design of each restaurant is specific to their cities. Avoiding the cookie-cutter concept is Will’s main goal. “We are a local restaurant, and we want to maintain our local feel. The 119 space is unique only to 119. We love that. We adapt to the space and try to let the space be itself. We don’t try to make the space something it’s not.”
Will advises Taco Mama first-timers to “take it all in” and to not rush through their meals; to enjoy the hand-picked music and the vibrant colors of the décor as much as the food and the hand-shaken margaritas. He provides an overview of the menu for those who want to know what to expect before they walk up to the counter. The menu is divided into two sides: a “build your own” side where you can make tacos, burritos, nachos and burrito bowls to your liking, and an “our-way” side where the Taco Mama team has carefully paired flavors together.
“Taco Mama newbies, we want to see through your eyes,” he says. “We put our heart and soul into what we do every day, and we hope you can feel and taste that.”
All of the food at Taco Mama is prepared fresh every day, and meats are slow-roasted for more than six hours. That’s just part of the process. “If there is a line, please don’t be afraid. It moves quick,” Will says. “We believe food and margaritas are worth the short wait. While you wait, we will be happy to fetch you one of our carefully crafted hand-shaken margaritas or an ice-cold cerveza.”
Back to Will’s hard-to-name favorites on the menu … he has a soft spot for the barbacoa, braised beef that’s slow-roasted and extremely tender, and the steak, which is a filet trimmed in-house. “But with that said, the chicken is extremely juicy and has unbelievable flavor. I have to stop there or we will be here all day. I feel guilty that I went that far.”
Regarding the margaritas, he loves the Prosecco Fizz margarita and the Watermelon margarita, but admits his go-to drink is the Mercedes. “This is unfair, but there you have it.”
Even after seeing multiple Taco Mama locations open in Alabama and other states, Will says the community support of the Shelby County location has been unbelievable.
“It’s crazy. We knew the people loved us, but the people are fabulous,” he says. “We are so thankful for how the community has embraced us. We have so much fun making people happy.”
Another insider tip from Will: At Taco Mama, you can eat fresh, real food however you want it – clean and healthy, or just the opposite. Whatever you decide, the team is just happy you’re there, wanting to relax and eat the food they’re so passionate about.
“We wake up every day grateful,” Will says. “We don’t take the opportunity to make people happy for granted. We really are making new friends every day, and that’s what drives us.”
For more information about Taco Mama, visit Tacomamaonline.com or follow @EatAtTacoMama on Facebook and Instagram.