Austin Made: How Torchy’s Tacos became a ‘damn good’ staple

From a humble food truck to a national chain with more than 100 locations, Torchy’s Tacos remains an Austin-founded favorite.

Torchy the baby devil statue under a sign that reads "Torchy's Tacos" during the daytime.

If you live in Austin, Torchy the baby devil is a familiar sight as you drive around town.

Photo by Otter Box

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The Trailer Park. The Tipsy Chick. The Brushfire. If you have ever been to Torchy’s Tacos, you recognize the names of its signature tacos.

The cheeky local staple has been slinging tacos to Austinites and beyond since opening in 2006 — around 18 years ago.

Fast facts

  • Torchy’s serves a limited-edition “Taco of the Month,” which changes (you guessed it) once a month.
  • A portion of proceeds from the Taco of the Month go toward charities such as the MD Anderson Research Center, Make A Wish Foundation, and The Phoenix House.
  • You can order your taco “trashy,” which means adding queso, or “classy,” which means adding lettuce.
  • Torchy’s now operates 100+ restaurants in 14 states around the country, including 15 in Austin.

Humble beginnings

The first Torchy’s opened inside a food truck on South First Street. Founder Mike Rypka, a trade chef, would ride around town and deliver tacos on his red Vespa in the early days. Once, while on his deliveries, Rypka said he heard folks say “damn, these tacos are good,” which morphed into the restaurant’s well-known slogan.

An Instagram post showing Sloke One painting Torchy.

Sloke One created a mural for the restaurant, which was done the traditional way: “after hours.”

Photo via Torchy’s

Since the beginning, Torchy’s has tapped local artists — like the Blue Genie Art Industries and street artist Sloke One — to help create and expand its distinct branding, complete with its devil baby mascot.

The future of Torchy’s


It’s a classic combo: the trailer park taco and an order of guacamole.

Photo by Carlie Lara

Rypka says, “if you’ve been to one Torchy’s, you’ve been to one Torchy’s,” meaning no two restaurants are the same. Earlier this year, Rypka was named Ernst & Young’s Gulf South Entrepreneur of the Year award, and says the company is growing by 10%-15% each year.

In 2020, Torchy’s secured $400 million in funding to grow the chain. The brand is currently undergoing “Project Blue Sky” to optimize the menu.

Want to learn more about local businesses? Read more about Kerbey Lane All Day Cafe and Whole Foods Market.

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