(March 29, 2019) A once abandoned storefront has been transformed into a Mexican food carryout in West Ocean City, at 9935 Stephen Decatur Highway, on the corner of routes 50 and 611.
Taco Junction was created by Rod Vara, owner of Trader Lee’s House of Rock in the same shopping center, and had a soft opening in late February.
“We felt as though there was a need in West Ocean City for a Mexican carryout versus just sitting down at a traditional restaurant,” Vara said. “We try to give people that authentic Mexican food experience.”
He also wanted to extend a carryout location, which would be available for part-time workers in the summer.
“We see a lot a lot of need, especially being at the bar, and the bar’s typically open till 2 a.m.,” Vara said. “What would happen is all these kids that are down here for the summer who are working and the [J-1] students that are here, they all live out here and they don’t get off work until 10:30-11 p.m. They’re looking for places to go.”
The menu offers Mexican food staples such as nachos, guacamole, quesadillas, burritos and, of course, tacos. Customers can select from beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian options, along with a variety of toppings like cilantro, onions, lettuce and tomatoes.
Side dishes include bowls of chili, chips and salsa, stuffed jalapeños, refried beans and bowls of rice.
The storefront, which used to be a consignment shop, took around three weeks of construction time over the span of three months for Vara and co-owner Joel Watsky to renovate to their liking, spending six hours a day on average remodeling the interior.
“We did it all ourselves,” Vara said. “Every week me and [Joel] literally came in on Sundays and Wednesdays … the two days that we really ever had off, we just kept coming in here. Little by little, one day we fixed the floor, the next we did the drywall then it did the wood and so on.”
Vara, who began renting the property around a year ago, initially struggled with what he wanted to use the facility for, until he visited his daughter in Florida.
“I went to visit my daughter down in St. Augustine, Florida, and we were trying to come up with an idea to have food for the bar,” Vara said. “I was visiting her on a break and we’re sitting out in this little courtyard area … kind of like the Boardwalk but a lot smaller, but there was a lot of cool shops and I happen to look over and see this little taco shop. It just kind of clicked.”
The restaurant prides itself on its fresh ingredients and especially on its convenience.
“You can grab something quick going to Assateague, or when you get off the beach from Assateague,” Watsky said.
“Everything is cut fresh daily,” Vara said. “We don’t hold anything from the night before to the next day.”
The restaurant has already been well received by those who have sampled its cuisine, Vara said.
“People are really enjoying the quality of the food and the freshness of the food,” Vara said. “We’ve actually had quite a few people that are actually Mexicans that come in here, and it reminds them of home.”
Vara is still experimenting with his new carryout and has put some thought into extending into the morning, with breakfast burritos and other morning specials. He also plans to implement outdoor seating once the weather gets warmer.
An official grand opening for the eatery will take place on Cinco de Mayo, with tents and a large grill set up outside. Vara plans to rope off the parking lot for the grand opening and serve Mexican cuisine all day, while live entertainment from a local band will perform from around 1-8 p.m.
As the summer season approaches, Taco Junction will be need of kitchen staff, as there are only three employees at the moment; Vara, Watsky and one cook.
Taco Junction is open every day from noon to 8 p.m. on the weekdays and noon to early morning hours on the weekend, which could vary during the summer season.
For more information about Taco Junction, call 443-664-8640.