When I first pulled Taco Bob’s out of the Going Local hat on Monday, I didn’t think much of it. I envisioned a small restaurant that specializes in tacos and deduced that it would be a tasty way to spend the Wednesday lunch hour. Nothing more, nothing less.
My expectations were raised later that night when talking to my girlfriend, Mary, about where Joanne and I would be Going Local this week.
“Taco Bob’s? The one down in Kalamazoo is very good! You’re going to like it,” Mary quipped. She grew up in Kalamazoo and is a bit of a food aficionado herself. If Taco Bob’s brought back immediate positive memories for her, I was now expecting the same for myself. The bar had been raised.
From the street, Taco Bob’s doesn’t look like much. You’d be forgiven if you missed the taco shop at 900 52nd St. entirely because of the car wash in close proximity. I should mention, you will only be forgiven if you apologize, admit you were wrong to glance over Taco Bob’s, and stop by sometime in the near future to try the delicious offerings presented on the menu. I’ll be the first to admit it, I glanced over Taco Bob’s many-a-times and only saw the car wash. I have seen the light and it is marvelous!
At Taco Bob’s you can order at a drive-thru or at the pick up window and sit outside. Wednesday may have been windy, but it was sunny enough to enjoy a bite outside, so Joanne and I chose the pick up window. The whole menu looked enticing and I felt each item whispering sweet nothings into my ear. However, I can only date one item at a time as I believe in a monogamous relationship between a man and food. In order to help me make a decision, I called upon the owner himself, Kyle Hemmes.
“The funny tacos are really popular. They’re a hard shell taco wrapped in a warm soft shell taco and sandwiched with nacho cheese in between,” My heart skipped a beat as butterflies began swarming in my stomach. I was getting nervous and excited all at the same time. Some call it love at first sight, I call it a typical Going Local afternoon.
The tacos were warm, zestful, and crunchy in all the right places. I consumed both tacos in an instant and immediately pondered if I wanted more. My taste buds wanted more, and they wanted it NOW, but my stomach, eyes and mind were telling me no as there were still rice and beans in front of me. I finished the rest of my lunch and went back to work with nothing but Taco Bob’s on my mind.
At work the next day, my heart couldn’t shake the impression Taco Bob’s made on me. Joanne sat and listened as I poured my heart out about a love that ended too soon. Did that meal mean more to me than it did to those tacos? I couldn’t help but think maybe I fell too fast, too soon. I was craving Taco Bob’s but I didn’t want to come across as desperate. Thankfully, Joanne was there for me. She swung by Taco Bob’s for lunch and picked up two tacos to bring back to the station. I ate in peace and my heart was full once more.
With the announcement that the downtown Fifth/Third building is being turned into a hotel, Kyle Hemmes was forced to move his restaurant Taco Bob’s from Grand Rapids to Kentwood. All I can say is Grand Rapids’s loss is a heck of a gain for Kentwood and all of us who love to eat local.
I became familiar with Taco Bob’s when in my previous life I was working in Kalamazoo and a co-worker took me to the original. The owner, Bob, told me of the location in Grand Rapids, but I was never able to eat there as the lines were too long and the hours were limited to lunch only.
Fast forward and I have been driving past the Taco Bob’s location at 900 52nd St. SE for several weeks, not realizing its famous connection, until we were on our way for lunch. When Hemmes confirmed it, I was so excited I could barely focus on the menu board.
“Most people get our Funny Tacos. That’s what we are known for.” Hermes said. Nah, not what I wanted. “Or the Nachos Supreme. A lot people like our nachos.” Bingo! The item I always got in Kalamazoo was just singing to me.
At the Kentwood Taco Bob’s, you have the choice of take it and go or sitting outside. The location is actually the former Java Cone ice cream stand. The day we were there, it was a beautiful fall day and if you sat in the sun, it was warm enough to sit outside. We gathered our food, took a table and dug in.
Taco Bob’s is open year around and offers an array of Mexican fare: tacos, burritos, tostadas, taco salad, quesadillas, and a “Quick Fix” selection that includes tortilla chips, nacho cheese, and small drink.
I ended up visiting Taco Bob’s the next day as someone, whose name starts with an “M,” had to mention tacos. Actually, he started his taco talk soon after returning from our first Taco Bob’s adventure. It brought a chuckle to Hemmes when I drove up and said “I’m back.”
“That’s a good thing,” he said. In fact, during our first foray, I mentioned how I was definitely bringing my family to Taco Bob’s. It became a definite when I read the description of the Cheezy Taco: soft shell with ground beef melted shredded cheese and sour cream, which is my daughter’s definition of the perfect taco.
I’m the person on the sidelines, the one who has to hold down the fort while these two do their foodie happy dance each week. But I don’t mind, because every so often, you gotta take one for the team, right? Besides, I get so much more work done than they do. And as a bonus, when they come back from their Going Local thing, they’re always happy, and I love working with happy people.
But this week was different. When Joanne and Mike came back from Taco Bob’s, I could tell they were inordinately happy, much happier than usual — almost frighteningly so, eyes bright and shiny, a peppy step to their gait, smiles a mile wide. Luckily, I had an editing project to do upstairs, so their squeals of laughter didn’t get on my nerves.
On Thursday, I was still editing upstairs when Joanne popped her head in and asked if I wanted some takeout from Taco Bob’s. Well, heck, yes! I wanted to feel what they were feeling.
I tried a crunchy meat taco. OMG. I cannot stress enough how awesome it tasted, even without taco sauce. The meat is seasoned to perfection, the cheese cheesy as cheese is wont to be, and the lettuce fresh and crispy.
Well, that does it. I’m going to head over to Taco Bob’s. Mike and Joanne have hit on a winner.