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Tijuana Taco to expand east
Two more taquerias to open in Knoxville area this year


The success of a Farragut taqueria has sparked the idea to construct two more locations in the Knoxville area.

“We’ve had a great year. We are truly blessed by the community,” said Jim Klonaris concerning the success of Tijuana Taco Co., 120 West End Ave.

The 4,000 square-foot Farragut location opened in October 2002.

Klonaris and his wife, Lori, own the Tijuana Taco concept, but the restaurants are owned by individual investors.

The profitability of the Farragut location bore the idea to open two more locations — in a new structure being built at the corner of Keller Bend Road and Northshore Drive, across from Pizza Kitchen; and the second in a 2,700-square-foot portion of the 80-year-old former Watson’s department store building in downtown Knoxville’s Market Square.

The Northshore Drive location will open mid-to-late June and Market Square will follow in late summer or fall, Klonaris said.


The success of the Farragut location, Klonaris said, is largely because of the restaurant’s casual atmosphere.

“We’re really trying hard to become the neighborhood restaurant,” he said. “So when people think ‘Where do the locals go for casual food?’ … think Tijuana Taco.”

The couple has worked hard to earn the neighborhood restaurant title, offering specials to the Farragut schools and the Farragut Baseball League.

Tijuana Taco currently has a program on regular rotation with Farragut Middle School.

“It’s kind of a good kid program,” Klonaris said. “Every six weeks a pod comes down here.”

The program entails a $5 flat fee and the students have a choice of either two tacos, burritos or chimichangas and chips and salsa.

The Farragut Baseball League has the option of eating at Tijuana Taco free before or after any game, Klonaris said, but a coach must be present.

“That’s roughly 10,000 meals we committed for free meals during baseball season,” he added.

The restaurant also runs specials for adults, such as Two-Taco Tuesday. From 3 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday tacos are buy one, get one free, dine-in only.

A lot of research went into choosing the locations for the two additional restaurants.

“There are just a lot of homes out there,” Klonaris said concerning why Northshore Drive was chosen for one of the locations.

“We also didn’t want one of them to go too far from the Farragut location,” he added.

Klonaris said there was “just a need in the downtown area for more lunch restaurants,” so Market Square was chosen for the third location.

“Everything’s moving from downtown (Knoxville),” he said. “We want to get behind the downtown area and help it resurge.”

Both locations will have the same menu and assembly line format that made the Farragut Tijuana Taco popular.

“We make the food in front of (the customer) so there is no room for error,” Klonaris said. “People get exactly what they want.”

He added that each location would take on its own personality.

“The colors on the walls will be the same. Each location will have architectural differences,” he said.

Klonaris said the 3,000 square-foot Market Square location would have 20-foot ceilings with exposed brick and wood floors.

“It’s going to be a cool space, really eclectic I guess,” he said. “We’re not creating them like cookie-cutters, but the food is the same.”

Tijuana Taco specializes in tacos and burritos, but there are also some signature items, Klonaris said, such as tamales, quesadillas, salads and an item that includes potato chips — Nachos de Pappas.

“That’s really our signature item,” he said.

The dish is made with thinly sliced homemade potato chips and is layered with queso, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole and sour cream. Patrons can also add a choice of meat to the dish — grilled garlic steak, grilled mojo chicken, chipolte barbecue pork and chile ground beef.

Two other unique items Tijuana Taco offers is a fish taco and an Atkins diet-friendly naked burrito.

“The fish taco is to die for,” Klonaris said. “(Customers) get hooked on them … they are tasty and good for you. Now other restaurants are starting to add them.”

The naked burrito is the “same as regular burrito,” he said, except without any carbohydrates.

“It’s not even on the menu, we just started doing it,” Klonaris said.

He said the food is also a major factor that made Tijuana Taco popular in Farragut.

“You get big portions of real sirloin steak, best hamburger you can get and chicken,” he said. “It’s fresh food on a daily basis.”

The speed of service is also a contributing factor, he added.

“It’s a big strength,” Klonaris said. “Come in, get your food and it’s faster than going through a drive-through.”

“Our system is working,” he added.

Once the new locations are complete, Klonaris said there would be a system-wide grand opening with some kind of promotion.

“It’s been a good year,” he said, “ … and we’re hoping to expand even past these three locations.”

 

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