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Side Dishes: Mad Taco finally opens in Montpelier

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The wait is over. This weekend, the Mad Taco finally threw open the doors of its second location, in Montpelier, rolling out hearty Mexican breakfasts and farm-to-table tacos stuffed with the likes of pork belly and achiote chicken. The runup to the occasion wasn’t without drama.

The 18-seat eatery is a collaboration between the owners of nearby Three Penny Taproom and Joey Nagy, chef at the Mad Taco’s original Waitsfield location. Both use meat and produce from local farms, but whereas Waitsfield concentrates on lunch and dinner, diners in the capital can also fill themselves up with huevos rancheros and patatas bravas in the morning and dishes such as ceviche later in the day. Co-owner Scott Kerner says chef Laura Thompson (formerly of Parker Pie Co.) may also serve up tripe, oxtail and other out-of-the-ordinary bites.

The eatery was originally slated to open in December, but the owner of neighboring Charlie O’s, Jeff Jacobs, allegedly objected to the owners’ plan to install a hood system on the roof facing his business, which was key to having a fryer inside the taqueria.

In a release dated February 12, the Mad Taco owners claim that they embarked on the project with Jacobs’ verbal approval, only to be met with resistance on the eve of installation. They decided to install the hood on the other side of the building, the letter continues, but began to believe Jacobs would continue to appeal zoning decisions on their behalf, citing fire concerns.

Rather than pay rent on an empty space, the Mad Taco’s owners decided to move ahead without a fryer, but the experience left its mark. “We believe that this town is not owned and operated by one man, but by the collective people… It’s unfortunate that the whims of one person could cost a group of entrepreneur’s [sic] like ourselves thousands of dollars in wasted resources, time and effort,” reads the press release.

Jesse Jacobs, property manager with Montpelier Property Management, refuted some of the barbs against his father. The elder Jacobs never offered verbal approval, he says, and he was most concerned with the potential fire hazard — he hoped to see drawings of the hood system that were never offered. “There’s this perception we don’t want businesses coming to town unless we’re going to be renting it. That’s not true. The more businesses that are successful in downtown Montpelier, the better it is for all of us.”

No fryer means the Mad Taco had to nix plans for fried fish tacos and churros, among other dishes. Kerner wouldn’t comment on the kerfuffle, but remained upbeat. “It didn’t hurt us too much,” he says. “We had a great weekend, and we’re very excited.”

The Mad Taco, 72 Main Street, Montpelier, 228-6038

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