Taco Daddy Brings Fresh Food, Fresh Take on 555 Quince Orchard

Photo | Phil Fabrizio Chef Damian Portugez sends a plate of tacos ready to be served through the kitchen window.

Photo | Phil Fabrizio
Chef Damian Portugez sends a plate of tacos ready to be served through the kitchen window.

When Kentlands resident Neel Kamal opened a second, lively Taco Daddy Cantina & Tequila Bar (the original Taco Daddy in downtown Frederick was opened about a year ago) in the Quince Diamond Executive Center at 555 Quince Orchard Road, he knew that the location had seen a number of establishments come and go after longtime O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub closed.

But he liked the spot’s visibility from Quince Orchard and Clopper and loved the intersection’s high traffic counts—between 60,000 and 70,000 cars pass through the intersection daily. The free parking and large, outdoor dining patio were also big pluses.

Kamal and his partner, Chef Damian Portugez, hope that Taco Daddy will delight customers and become a fixture in the area dining scene. “This is really my wife, Navneet’s baby,” Kamal said. However, she is expecting another daughter, so Kamal and Portugez are getting the restaurant started.

All three have extensive restaurant backgrounds. Kamal’s family ran restaurant and hotel businesses in his native India, and he did as well for nine years in Singapore before arriving in Maryland in 2004 where he managed local Tandoori Nights for three years. Navneet comes from a family restaurant background as well and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. Mexico City native Portugez, who has been cooking and training chefs for 18 years, is a part owner. Kamal and Portugez met through a mutual friend and have collaborated on three restaurants to date; two are Mexican restaurants in Baltimore and Towson. They work together on specials and menu planning and complement each other well. Both say they are “hands on” and have faith in the restaurant concept, themselves and their partnership.

Everything is made fresh, including all sauces and stews. We were greeted with a margarita and tasty house-made fried jalapenos stuffed with pulled chicken and cheese. The house salsa has a nice kick, served with chips of course. Two other salsas are available on request—fiery habanero and spicy salsa verde, which was my favorite. Portugez said, “This is what you would get if you order guacamole in Mexico City”—a green tomatillo sauce with herbs and a touch of avocado.

Entrees were a selection of four tacos with various fillings (beef, pork, chicken and carnitas) and enchiladas suizas, with pulled chicken in a flavorful creamy tomatillo sauce. Many entrees are vegetarian and/or gluten free.

The partners talked about the evolution of ethnic food for American tastes, and how many cuisines have created dishes catering to these presumed tastes rather than staying true to their origins. Kamal and Portugez want to remain as close to authentic as possible.

The tequila bar is a big attraction—the first in Montgomery County, Kamal said. They are somewhat limited due to county regulations but have created a wide selection of tequilas for all tastes.

The menu is large and varied and the atmosphere fiesta-ish and family friendly. Kids are given mini-maracas and can play along with the music. In addition to happy hours Monday through Friday, 3 to 7 p.m., Taco Daddy offers live Mariachi music every Thursday, 7 to 9 p.m., and birthday specials. As the weather warms up, Kamal plans to decorate the patio with palm trees and serve meals al fresco.

“I look forward to being here for many years … into retirement,” Kamal said.

Not one to let grass grow under his feet, he is busy working on plans to open an American-style bar with pizza and burgers in Kentlands. Stay tuned for more news as this develops. In the meantime, visit Taco Daddy and enjoy some authentic Mexican food and beverages in a festive atmosphere. Go to tacodaddycantina.com for more information.

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