By Avery Centrella / For Tallahassee Table
You may recognize this bright orange food truck, which has served tacos around Tallahassee for the past three years. Now you can also find these tasty treats in a brick-and-mortar home. Rankin Tacos’ popularity in the Tallahassee community has led to their recent opening at 2386 Allen Road to more readily cater their customers.
Their backstory is one of community support and family tradition. Their unique taco recipes began in the Texan kitchen of cofounder Roger Rankin’s grandmother.
“My grandmother, Willie Grace Rankin, created this style of taco back in Texas,” said Roger. “With this taco, the meat and shell are prepared together to make what we like to call an ‘American Style Taco’ or a ‘Rankin Taco.’ ”
This original taco involves “salad topping, Ketchup, and Crystal Hot Sauce as condiments with a side of Texas-style beans and flat tater tots.”
The Rankins’ friends and family encouraged the couple to start a food truck after trying the tacos inspired by Roger’s grandmother. Roger was a deputy sheriff at the time and Bridgette, a teacher.
“We went on a beach weekend with friends, made tacos the way his grandmother made them, pan-fried, as a treat. Our friends stood in the kitchen eating taco after taco and said, ‘you gotta do something with these,’” said Bridgette.
Rankin Crunchy and Confused Tacos food truck was born.
“Starting a food truck was my dream,” said Roger. “Once I opened it and saw how well it was doing and the fans that were following us, I realized that there were a lot of hours that we couldn’t be open .”
Given their local support, the Rankins decided to take the plunge and open a restaurant in the former home of Long John Silver’s.
“We gutted it and started over from scratch,” said Roger, who most recently worked for the state of Florida in emergency preparedness.
The Rankins officially opened their restaurant on February 18. On March 20, Gov. DeSantis ordered restaurants to shut down.
Roger and Bridgette kept their restaurant alive, offering takeout and drinks to-go. They kept their employees, though albeit with fewer shifts.
As Tallahassee Beer Society noted on Facebook, “Instead of seeking pity, they persevered. They didn’t lay off staff. They launched an online ordering system and offered contactless pickup. And they weathered the storm with no fear like an experienced sailor in the middle of a hurricane.”
And the Rankins are grateful their community support continued.
“We are thankful to have a bunch of loyal followers that not only visited frequently but also shared their positive experiences on social media and with their friends so we drew in new fans,” said Bridgette. “We also relied heavily on our social media postings and specials. As we have been able to open back up slowly, having ample outdoor seating has been a huge benefit.”
Now that restaurants can offer seating at 50 percent capacity, Rankin Tacos has “opened our outdoor seating only, with an exception for rain, where we operate indoors with spaced-out booths and tables,” she said. “ It’s very spaced out and comfortable inside, with the garage door open.”
The couple is optimistic about the future.
“There does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bridgette. “We definitely feel like we will be living in a new normal but it has been so nice having people back to sit and enjoy our space. We are adding shade sails to our deck and green space to make it more comfortable for folks to sit outside as we approach summer.”
More provisions include takeout and curbside pickup options, increased sanitation, gloves for employees, not encountering in a close manner,” she said.
“We want people to be safe and for them to know that we’re doing our due diligence,” said Roger, noting that most of his staff is now back working.
The Rankins still emphasize the importance of supporting other local businesses and providing a welcoming space.
“Our goal is to make our restaurant feel homey and welcoming and our green space has been a really great space for families,” said Bridgette.
Rankin Tacos offers a diverse menu of signature tacos as well as a variety of options to build-your-own, fondly known as the User-Friendly Taco. Roger implemented this option to give “the customer artistic license to create what each prefers, making it the world’s first ‘user-friendly’ taco.”
The Texan “Willie G” taco is stuffed with creamy cabbage slaw, vegetables, and drizzled with hot sauce. The Greekan is a gyro in the form of a taco. Vegan and vegetarian foodies will also find plenty of options on the menu.
Savory sides pair nicely, including Dusted Tater Tots, Spanish Rice, and Spicy Pinto Beans.
Recently, Rankin Tacos added chicken wings, expanded their sauce options, queso mac and cheese, as well as margaritas and a wide beer selection.
Bartender Crosby Martin said, “most of our beers are from breweries that are within 120 miles, like Deep, Ology, Proof, and Lake Tribe.” Rankin Tacos is also a member of the Tallahassee Beer Society.
“So much much of this combines cooking and making connections with people,” said Bridgette.
When you go … Visit Rankin Tacos from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday (closed Monday) and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Contact: 850-877-TACO (8226).