The father of a three-year-old daughter, Neel Kamal thought of her when naming his new restaurant. “Taco” goes without saying because “everybody loves tacos,” he said, and “Daddy” because the first time he heard his daughter say this was the most special moment.
The name worked, too, because “Daddy loves everybody.” That’s the sort of place he wants to create—inclusive, fun and family-oriented where locals can gather to enjoy great food, as well as a restaurant that gives back to the community through school and nonprofit fundraising nights and donated meals for the homeless. Kamal is a strong believer in creating good karma. The first Taco Daddy opened in Downtown Frederick this February. Kamal took over the Adam & Eve Gastro Pub location on North Market Street, and he retained Adam & Eve staff. Popular for food prepared by Executive Chef Damian Portugez, originally from Mexico City, and an amazing 90 types of tequila, Taco Daddy Frederick took off.
On Dec. 12, Kamal, who lives in Kentlands, opened a second Taco Daddy at 555 Quince Orchard Road. He was excited by the opportunity afforded by the highly visible corner spot at the Clopper Road intersection that sees 60,000 vehicles pass by each day, he said. Plus, he loved the patio that, in warmer months, will feature acoustic bands, possibly from Kentlands—as well as a palm tree or two.
A longtime restaurateur and chef, Kamal has owned and run many restaurants, including some that featured Indian cuisine. Taco Daddy is different, he said. It brings the food, hospitality and fun of Mexico, where many Americans have vacationed, to Gaithersburg.
Chef Portugez’s mother had a restaurant in Mexico City, and all of his authentic Mexican dishes—including 13 kinds of tacos—are made from scratch with fresh ingredients. Among his signature dishes are enchiladas suizas, garlic shrimp and fajitas with ranchero sauce, Kamal said.
Taco Daddy Gaithersburg also has the interesting distinction of being the only tequila bar in Montgomery County, he added. General Manager Ty Burke has created a menu that describes each of the restaurant’s 90 tequilas. Lower in sugar than other alcoholic drinks, tequila is gaining a reputation as a healthier alternative, he said. The high sugar content of beer and wine causes inflammation and joint pain, and without all of the sugar, you can really taste the richness of the tequila, he added.
Burke has spent 25 years in the restaurant industry, including many years at Bonefish Grill. A Gaithersburg resident, he is happy to live less than 10 minutes from Taco Daddy and be more a part of the community that he loves for its diversity and support of families. The son of an Air Force officer, Burke was born in England and went to high school in Europe. He then joined the military and was stationed around the world, including the Persian Gulf and Somalia. “I love to travel and see different cultures,” he said.
Now there is a little bit of Mexico at the Quince Orchard/Clopper Road intersection. The restaurant vibrates with color illuminated by eclectic fixtures and wide windows letting in lots of natural light. Decorated by Kamal himself, the place pops with interesting touches—signage, skulls and a skeleton wearing a Taco Daddy t-shirt.
Kamal welcomes the community for food and fun. A Mariachi band plays Thursday nights, 7 to 9 p.m., and an acoustic band will grace the patio in warmer months. All children are given a maraca to bring home, and adults get a free mason jar. For the really adventurous, Taco Daddy has the Don Julio REALTM tequila. A luxury tequila, shots sell for $50—and patrons get a souvenir glass skull shot glass.
Taco Daddy is open now from 3 to 11 p.m. Lunch hours begin on Dec. 22. A Fiesta Party is planned for New Year’s Eve. Visit
TacoDaddyCantina.com for more information.