CORALVILLE — At new Coralville eatery Tap N’ Tacos, vivid pop art paintings of avocados, tomatoes and jalapenos line the walls, a bright visual preview of the menu.
Henry Herrera opened the Mexican restaurant March 1 in Coralville. It’s his second business — his first, Henry’s Painting, is reflected in the new restaurant’s interior design.
All of the walls are brightly colored and some feature a striped motif meant to evoke a traditional Mexican blanket, which Herrera said he spent about 140 hours carefully painting. Artist Jamie Boling and Chuck Skaugstad Jr., owner of The Mansion design store, helped with the interior design.
“We didn’t want to make it too generic,” Herrera said.
He applied the same goals to the rest of the restaurant.
“We’re not trying to be like every other Mexican place in town,” he said. “Everyone has a conception that a taco has to be a certain way, but we want to be original. We don’t want to be a traditional Mexican restaurant.”
Herrera doesn’t have any previous restaurant experience but said as an entrepreneur, opening a restaurant has long been a dream of his.
“I am a firm believer in hard work and dedication,” he said. “And I hired a great kitchen team.”
He grew up in Coralville but was born in Los Angeles and has traveled to California throughout his life to visit friends and family. Those trips and the ubiquitous taco trucks he visits when he’s there inspired the menu. So did the food he grew up eating in his mother’s kitchen — his family is Salvadoran and Spanish.
“I feel like a restaurant is something where you can bring what you grew up on and share that with everyone else. For me, that is tacos,” he said.
His food is inspired by California-Mexican cuisine rather than other regional varieties such as Tex-Mex. That translates to dishes like carne asada fries, topped with cilantro, onion, grilled meat and dressing, served with pico de gallo. The appetizer sampler plate includes elotes — grilled corn with chile powder, mayonnaise and cotija cheese — quesadillas, the carne asada fries and taquitos.
The “tap” portion of the name refers to beer taps, which the restaurant features as part of a full bar lineup. Drinks include West Coast-style margaritas, as well as non-alcoholic drinks like horchata and Jarritos soda.
The menu, which includes vegan and gluten free options, also features straightforward street tacos and more dressed up “gourmet” tacos, burritos, fajitas and dishes like citrus-marinated chicken or the Carlitos Taco Burger. Named for his youngest son, who helped invent it, it is a burger with two tacos, plus cilantro, onion, salsa verde and avocado sauce.
“It’s about getting the right flavors,” Herrera said. “The sauces, the plating and the concept are more of a West Coast style.”
If You Go
• What: Tap N’ Tacos
• Where: 805 Fifth St., #8, Coralville
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
• Details: (319) 354-5450, tapntacostogo.com
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