Another familiar Texas restaurant chain is firing up expansion plans in the Pikes Peak region.
Austin-based Torchy's Tacos will open its first Colorado Springs restaurant in mid-October in the InterQuest Marketplace shopping center, northeast of Interstate 25 and InterQuest Parkway on the city's north side.
Torchy's, which coined its "damn good tacos" slogan after customers described its signature menu item in that appreciative fashion, was launched 15 years ago this week when founder Mike Rypka started to sell items from a food truck.
The chain now has 95 locations in 11 states, including six Denver-area restaurants and one in Fort Collins, according to its website.
Torchy's has sought to grow to Colorado Springs since it opened its first Colorado location five years ago, said John Madrick, a market partner who oversees restaurant development and site selection in the state.
Torchy's saw Colorado Springs as an attractive market because of its vibrant economy and acceptance of new restaurant brands, Madrick said. And since it debuted in the state, Torchy's has heard from "a ton of people" who wanted the brand to come to Colorado Springs.
"It's almost a demand piece, too," Madrick said. "We're trying to really put some supply where we think the demand is."
The north-side InterQuest area seemed like a natural fit for the city's first Torchy's location, he said.
The sprawling 900,000-square-foot InterQuest Marketplace is one of four retail and mixed-use developments in the InterQuest area, along with Victory Ridge, InterQuest Commons and InterQuest Town Center.
Combined, the developments make up Colorado Springs' hottest commercial area and are home to hotels, restaurants, retailers, movie theaters, service-oriented businesses and apartments. Outdoor retailer Scheels All Sports and the Great Wolf Lodge and Water Park are among InterQuest Marketplace's high-profile attractions.
The Air Force Academy, meanwhile, is just west of Interstate 25, and New Life Church, Pikes Peak Community College and employers such as Bal-Seal Engineering are among the area's major players.
Ent Credit Union also has built a headquarters at InterQuest; In-N-Out Burger opened its first Colorado restaurant there, along with production and distribution facilities; and Centura Health broke ground in May on a 72-bed hospital in the area.
"It's a great place to start our Colorado Springs developments," Madrick said.
Torchy's probably will add at least one more Springs-area restaurant, though the chain wants to first see the performance of the InterQuest Marketplace location, he said.
Torchy's offers a variety of tacos, along with breakfast tacos, salads, burritos, quesos, sides and cocktails. The restaurant, with about 4,000 square feet, will employ 85 full- and part-time people, Madrick said.
The restaurant markets itself as a "craft casual, chef-driven" concept, Madrick said, whose tacos are made from scratch daily with fresh ingredients. The "damn good tacos" mantra highlights a slightly irreverent business culture that has helped attract cult-like fans known as "taco junkies," he said.
At InterQuest Marketplace, Torchy's will join fellow Texas chain Whataburger, along with Noodles & Co., Parry's Pizza, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen and Chili's, among several others.
"We feel like we're becoming the go-to place for lunch and dinner," said Robert Garcia, a vice president at Nor'wood Development Group in Colorado Springs, which built InterQuest Marketplace. "We now have 19 different eating and drinking establishments.
"Oddly enough, the bigger operators say they want to be next to each other, because it becomes the place to go to for lunch and dinner," Garcia said. "We think we've developed that."