The One and Only Taco Casa
For locals, a giant neon cactus in our southern college town just makes sense. They belong right up there in Tuscaloosa landmarks with Denny Chimes and the Railroad Bridge. They just make sense. To newcomers, they are one of the first things you ask a local about. Anybody born and raised here will likely have an undying passion for their tacos and sweet tea. While the city has grown its food scene more and more with each passing day, they still have a love for Taco Casa. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time before they sprung up around town. Long before 1974 when the first Taco Casa would open, founder Rod Wilkins was dreaming up of the Tex-Mex after practice under the guidance of Tuscaloosa Icon Coach Bear Bryant. He would go on to head back home, work with his father in construction and marry a Northport girl named Susan Strong.
They would come back to Tuscaloosa in 73 with money they invested from Susan’s grandmother. While Rod would try to get a loan for his Tex-Mex, he officiated high school football games while helping build Susan’s parents home. Once he got the loan from his fellow football official Ed King, he set out to find the perfect spot to build his dream on. On August 20th, 1974 Taco Casa was born. They hit the ground running with their long-continued tradition of serving fresh food made right after the customer ordered. Along with hot fresh food, they served some of the coldest beer in frosted mugs, quickly becoming the landmark restaurant where many locals would try their first taco.
After incredibly dedicating himself to his work, he was advised by his former high school coach to franchise Taco Casa. By 1977 Taco Casa expanded across the river to Northport. College students and locals alike would grow to love Taco Casa to the point they expanded into markets like Mobile, Birmingham, and even into auburn. On that tragic day of April 27th, 2011 a Taco Casa along 15th street was struck by the devastating tornado. The Restaurant would be one of the first businesses to come back stronger than before and be a beacon of hope for the city’s revival. To this day Taco Casa is still a family operated business with a dedication to our great city. They continue to serve freshly made Tex-Mex and some of the sweetest sweet tea in the state. It is loved and cherished as a local legend that continues to bring people together under the biggest cactus in town