BRADENTON BEACH -- That Gulf of Mexico view has enticed another entrprenuer.
While visiting the former Maria's Family Place Restaurant, Janice and Mike Dolan could see the gentle waves roll in just steps away from Seventh Street and Gulf Drive. All they needed was a taste of home so the Austin, Texas, residents opened Wicked Taco Cantina at 101 Seventh St. N.
"We couldn't live without it. We have our local hangout we would go to at least once a week with our friends and we wanted to create something like that here," Janice Dolan said sitting on the restaurant's patio overlooking the Gulf. The restaurant opened Dec. 8.
The Dolans, whose son Andrew plays centerfield for IMG Academy's post-graduate baseball team, are in the process of moving to the Bradenton area permanently.
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The full-service Tex-Mex restaurant features dishes with a kick ranging from fajitas and tacos to combination plates and a collection of queso, including Wicked Queso -- chile con queso with ground beef, pico and guacamole.
"We cook everything fresh every day," Mike Dolan said. "We have no microwaves. Everything's from scratch."
Salsa from scratch, guacamole from scratch and slow-roasted meats that have been in the oven for seven hours are some of the ways Wicked Taco gets its distinct flavors.
The restaurant's interior is from scratch, too. The family gutted the diner and added a patio and live entertainment. Building a restaurant from the inside out is familiar territory for the Dolans. For 25 years, Mike Dolan completed construction work for various restaurants and commercial projects between living in Austin and Orange County, Calif.
The Dolans built a bar, handcrafted decor and accents, refinished a fence to look like reclaimed wood, acid-treated siding and light fixtures made of wine barrels giving Wicked Taco a vintage feel with a polished finish. A vacant home will be torn down beside the
restaurant in the coming months to make way for more parking, which will also enable the Dolans to upgrade from beer and wine service to full liquor.
"You can go to the beach, you can come in and if you're sandy you can go to the patio and bring the kids," Janice Dolan said. The prices range from $12 to $16 for entrees, offer free chips and salsa and a family to-go pack.
"We remember when our kids were little and they're cranky and the last thing you want to do is sit at a restaurant," Janice Dolan said. "They can take meats, tortillas, beans and rice home, put a movie on and relax."
General manager Jake Baker came from Godfather's Pizza, where he was the executive director of operations, to work at Wicked Taco.
"I believe it was a great concept that could really go far," said Baker, a Springfield, Ill., native, who moved here a year ago.
Baker is looking forward to launching brunch service next month at 10 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, featuring Tex-Mex egg's Benedict with a chorizo hollandaise sauce and breakfast tacos.
Knowing Wicked is in a tourism-driven community, the restaurant wanted to find a way to be faithful to locals. Wicked Taco hopes to launch its locals-only VIP program where area residents will receive a discount on meals and accrue points that can add up to free meals.
"We understand that during season we need the locals or else we can't make it," Baker said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.