Reality television it wasn’t.
Months after Lloyd Taco Factory’s owners accepted a deal for 25 percent of their company with television cameras watching, they changed their minds and exercised their right to turn it down, Peter Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo said.
The Lloyd owners decided to get a bank loan instead. That decision, construction delays and the decision to start a tortilla business contributed to pushing the opening of their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, at 1503 Hertel Ave., to early next week.
Lloyd Taco Factory’s menu includes all of the standard tacos, burritos and nachos that have made their four-truck fleet a hit in Western New York. The recipes are the same, using meat that is raised without antibiotics or hormones, and organic black beans. Truck specials like the “Dirty South,” with fried chicken and waffle crumbles, and the vegan "Skinny Thai," with fried tofu and peanut sauce, will be on the permanent taco list there. Its chef will be longtime Lloyd staffer Teddy Bryant.
Restaurant-only menu items will include a bacon-wrapped Sonoran Dog, a Caesar-like Cortez salad, El Santo steak skewers, and a chorizo-and-potato El Hombre quesadilla.
The full bar features a list of craft cocktails and tequilas, though mezcal will be a specialty, said bar manager Yuri Polyachenko.
Queen City Shaken & Stirred helped shape the menu and training standards, and Cimino spent nights behind the bar at Buffalo Proper, alongside General Manager Jon Karel, learning how to run a beverage program, Cimino said.
It’s been a long journey for Dorsaneo and Cimino since they celebrated their “Restaurant Startup” appearance at the North Park Theatre on Feb. 10. In an episode of CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup,” Dorsaneo and Cimino accepted a proposal of $250,000 in exchange for 25 percent of their company.
After four months of further research and meetings with restaurant investors Tim Love and Joe Bastianich, the Lloyd owners decide to pass, for now, they said. “In the fine print, what happened on the show wasn’t legally binding,” Dorsaneo said, acknowledging that the show could have left another impression. (There is a disclaimer at the end of the show, noted Cimino.)
“We wanted to wait until we were open to make the announcement that we didn’t take the investment,” Cimino said.
In the meantime, the question of what kind of tortillas Lloyd should use – an issue aired on the show – led the partners to pursue making their own. They formed a company with John and Kristi Mora, called Lloyd Tortillas Inc.
John Mora is Mexican, from Teocuitatlan de Corona in Jalisco, with relatives in the tortilla business, he said. At Lloyd Taco Factory, Mora is overseeing the production of masa and tortillas from corn kernels. The corn is soaked in a lime solution and hulled, a process called nixtamalization, which frees the corn’s nutrients and makes it possible to form the ground corn into usable tortillas.
At present, the tortillas, made on machines visible behind glass in the Lloyd Taco Factory dining room, will only be used in the restaurant. Eventually the Lloyd tortillas and fresh masa dough will be available for sale, Cimino said.
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