Eat It, Virginia


Torchy's Tacos founder Mike Rypka comes clean about the 'secret menu'

Posted at 9:53 AM, Jan 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-30 09:54:42-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Torchy's Tacos will open its second Richmond-area restaurant in February. The new location, in the recently-built Carytown Exchange shopping center, is not far from where the Austin, Texas-based taco chain's CEO and founder came into this world.

"I was born at Richmond Memorial Hospital," Torchy's Tacos boss Mike Rypka told Scott and Robey on the Eat It, Virginia podcast. "We lived off of Monument Avenue. My mom and dad used to work for the Richmond newspaper. They were both journalists. My dad was a photographer. My mom was a journalist."

While the family moved to Northern Virginia about five years later, Rypka said he had "crazy memories" of his time in Richmond.

"I wandered off to a park that was at an elementary school near where we lived and my parents freaked out because they didn't know where I was and called the police," he said with a laugh. "The police found me wandering around. I was getting in trouble at an early age."

Fortunately for Torchy's fans, Rypka found his way into the kitchen where a variety of experiences led him to start a taco truck in Texas.

Torchys Tacos.png
Torchy’s Tacos is taking one of four new buildings rising near Chesterfield Towne Center.

"I kind of thought [the idea] was nuts. But I did a taco tour around Texas and what I found was a lot of great tacos. But they were all kind of traditional. Nothing wrong with them all great, awesome food, but they were pretty simple," he said. "[I thought] what if we could take tacos and make them more for the masses, make them a little more innovative bringing in some of those culinary things I have from my past and kind of elevate the taco and do more of a gourmet street taco. So that was kind of where the idea was born from."

After a few years, Rypka's idea grew from a truck to a single restaurant to now more than 100 Torchy's Tacos across the U.S.

A Short Pump location opened in January and a Midlothian location will join the Carytown spot later this year.

"When we were looking at expanding, Richmond was high on the list," Rypka said. "The culture and vibe of the city totally fits our brand. It doesn't hurt that I was born in Richmond and lived right off Monument Avenue."

Rypka said he and his team look for certain qualities when choosing where to open a new Torchy's Tacos.

"There are a few considerations high on the list," he said. "Have we gotten many requests to come there? Can we attract and hire great talent in those cities? Lastly, are the demographics, vibe, and culture consistent with other stores we have in the company? Richmond was an easy yes!"

Rypka has some advice for your first Torchy's visit.

"Lately my go-to is the Tipsy Chick taco. Always a bowl of queso. I do love our Baja shrimp and good old green chili pork," he suggested.

Mike Rypka Torchys orders

And if you want to fill like an insider, Rypka pulled the curtain back on Torchy's Tacos' secret menu.

"We have some things on our secret menu that you can get," he said when asked directly about those off-menu orders. "You can get our Trailer Park Hillbilly-style. That's a Trailer Park trashy, and then you add to chorizo. There's our green chili pork Missionary style, which actually I got that idea on a trip when I was in San Francisco and I was walking around eating tacos in the Mission District. This one taco shop I went in, they were taking these corn tortillas and parfrying them to where they were a little crispy, but had a little bit of flexibility to them, ad then they would melt cheese on them. And then they would put them inside flour tortillas and serve meat on them. So it's got that and then it's got some guacamole, some pickled onions a little creamy Chipotle on there. Such a good taco."

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