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Taco House

Al Parker - August 31st, 2009
Staying Power
The Taco House has popularity that’s built to last
By Al Parker 8/31/09

Restaurants open and restaurants close, but veteran restaurateur John Coscarelli knows exactly what’s made his Taco House prosper for some 28 years.
“The reason we’re successful, and continue to have success, is the people I’m working with,” explains Coscarelli, the soft-spoken hands-on owner of the popular Mexican fast food eatery in Traverse City.
“We have good chemistry working together. My head manager has been with us 28 years, two others over 20 years, five or six people between 15 and 20 years. People come here and they see familiar faces. That’s a big part of our success – that and the quality and consistency of our food.”
Located on Garfield Road just north of bustling South Airport Road, the area was much less congested when Coscarelli opened Taco House in 1981. “Bill Marsh was just starting his auto dealerships and the Cherryland Mall was there, but the rest of the area just built up around us,” he recalls.
Coscarelli took an empty building that once housed another Mexican restaurant and converted it into a comfortable dining atmosphere. The red-tiled floor and gray-and-white walled interior are clean and inviting.

Overhead beams and southwestern art lend a tasteful flair to the interior. Booths and tables offer ample seating for 50 visitors. For al fresco dining, there’s seating outside for a dozen or so that overlooks the restaurant’s colorful and tidy little garden area.
If you’re in a hurry, there’s a convenient drive-through that sees a steady stream of Taco House regulars during lunch and dinner crunch times.
Taco House food is basic, but tasty, Mexican fare. Hard shell tacos are only $.99 each, while the soft shell version is $1.10. The economical taco/tostada special offers three of either or mix-and-match for only $2.75.
“Our taco special is popular,” notes Coscarelli. “And our combination plates and taco salads are very popular.”
The combo plates come with flavorful refried beans, a helping of tasty rice and some crunchy salad. The burrito and enchilada combos are $6.29, while the taco version is $3.89.
Other Mexican favorites include wet burritos ($5.45), enchiladas ($2.99), taco salad ($3.99), and nachos ($3.99)
The menu is specially designed to be a bit mild, but Taco House offers a variety of sauces that allow adventurous diners to add a bit of heat to their order. Daily specials attract a lot of customers, both regulars and occasional visitors.
“It’s been a good summer,” says Coscarelli, who can usually be found working elbow-to-elbow with his team in the eatery’s bustling open-view kitchen area. “The Cherry Festival was busier than last year and we had several people in from the horse show who said ‘We’ll see you next summer.’”

Taco House is so popular it’s earned a niche on Facebook where fans have created “Taco House United.” Several of them from outside the region vow that Taco House is the first place they hit when they visit Traverse City.
“When people come here, they know what they’re going to get,” said Coscarelli, who grew up in Lansing and learned the restaurant business as a young teen working for relatives. “I don’t tinker with the menu too much. We’ve added a few things over the years, but the basics work for us. Plus our kitchen can only handle so much. Keeping the quality and consistency is the most important thing. And everything is made fresh daily.”
As for the namesake meal, do most customers prefer hard shell or soft shell?
“It’s about 50-50 now,” estimates Coscarelli with a smile. “Well, maybe slightly more hard shell, but soft has gained in recent years.”
Located at 1707 South Garfield in Traverse City, Taco House is open Monday-Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call (231) 947-0672.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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