Unusual Bedfellows: Willy Taco Tequila Cocina

By Kathleen Nalley / Photography By Erik Moore & Lennon Nalley | August 30, 2016
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Tricked out nachos make an entire meal.

You could call Willy Taco, Spartanburg’s favorite feeding grounds of the hip and happening, the ultimate in fusion flavors.

Four years ago, Kenneth Cribb, along with brother William Cribb, Richard Heatly, Bill Burton and Eric Holman, dreamed up an idea for a chef-driven taqueria in Spartanburg. With an eye on innovation and atmosphere (and lots of attention to detail), they created Willy Taco to offer fresh, creative food; attentive, warm service; and a sense of place. Kenneth Cribb describes the restaurateurs who launched the hot spot as a blend of “older and wiser” and “mere bambinos,” a varied sort that balances good ideas with good sense.

“Unusual bedfellows,” Cribb says.

Much like the ownership mix, the restaurant caters to cool of any age. You may find a young craft beer enthusiast chatting it up with a life aficionado sipping a reserve tequila (there’s over 75 topshelf tequilas at the bar). Or you may see a family of five celebrating a daughter’s kindergarten graduation with a table of guacamole, salsas and Jalapeno Pesos.

Willy Taco’s cuisine melds the canvases of Mexico with the flavors and ingredients of the South and beyond. Not sure what to order? Try the Fried Green Tomatoes with Southern slaw, guacamole, pico, queso fresco and chipotle ranch. Follow it up with a Crispy Avocado Taco—tempura-battered avocado, shaved cabbage, sweet chili sauce, microgreens, toasted sesame seeds, Willy’s house crema and pico—and a Southern Tide Taco with crispy shrimp, applewood smoked bacon, pimento cheese, shaved lettuce, pico and chipotle ranch. Indeed, all unusual bedfellows that work together to create a savory—umami-like—tasting experience.

The excitement, however, doesn’t stop with the food. The restaurant’s warm environment is a visual feast—a colorful amalgam of old and new, rust and shine. Turquoise walls punctuate the porch eating and bar area, and El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) art adorns the interior.

The restaurant also claims a Zero Waste designation, meaning that Willy Taco diverts over 90 percent of landfill waste through recycling and composting. All food waste is picked up by a local composting facility, and all packaging—cans, cardboard boxes—are recycled. Their hope is that Willy Taco becomes a model for sustainable practices for other local restaurants.

Greenvillians will be in for a treat when Willy Taco opens their second location at the Feed & Seed on Laurens Road in early 2017. Cribb promises this location will pay homage to the original Feed & Seed structure and fuse the building’s history with the excitement and festivity for which Willy Taco is known.

“We’ve learned, grown and cultivated what we call the ‘Willy Way,’” explains Cribb. “It’s our culture, how we communicate, how we relate to one another, to our customers, how we lead. In everything we do, we show that we’re of the community, that we are all ‘familia.’”

Willy Taco Tequila Cocina Hub City
930 East Main Street
Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-10pm
Friday-Saturday, 11am-11pm
Sunday 10am-9pm

Photo 1: The Willy Taco sign beckons drivers to stop in.
Photo 2: The Willy Taco Fried Green Tomato, smothered in slaw, guacamole, pico, queso fresco and chipotle ranch.
A colorful, whimsical corner of the porch bar stimulates the senses.
Article from Edible Upcountry at
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