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Balancing tacos and music with break ins and renovations

Balancing tacos and music with break ins and renovations

Killer Taco owner Jeff Seley and his son Joey Seley, 21, stand in front of the menu of custom tacos. Jeff Seley says he wouldn't have started the business without his son. Samantha Hardisty

Balancing tacos and music with break ins and renovations
April 04
22:23 2017

Killer’s Tacos pushes through break ins and trouble to celebrate one year anniversary 

From an outside perspective, the restaurant looks like an average, residential house and can easily be mistaken for one. But if you happen to stop by on a Monday morning during lunch hour, or a loud Friday night, you’ll never think twice about the little white house on the corner.

Nestled in the residential area of Scripture and Bryan Street sits Killer’s Tacos, a local taco joint by day and live music venue by night – very fitting for the city that is commonly referred to as a “mini-Austin.”

Having just recently celebrated their one year anniversary, Killer’s Tacos prides itself on serving the Denton community with fresh fish, lean chicken and crazy combination street tacos while also representing themselves as one of the few music venues left around Denton.

Many of the Denton locals who visit Killer’s Tacos come specifically for the food. The menu is all original creations by owner Jeff Seley, who said everything has his own slant to them.

“I put things on tacos that I like, like BBQ and bacon,” Jeff said. “The meats are very lean. We use white chicken breast – it cost more but it’s better for you. We use fresh fish, fresh vegetables and cheese.”

This unique combination of this Americana-Mexican inspired cuisine is the product of the Seley family, a father and son duo. Jeff says that he and his son, Joseph “Joey” Seley, have always wanted to open a restaurant together.

“It’s always been an idea we’ve had, since I can remember,” said Joey.

Russian roulette  

In 2016, their dream was made possible. With the recent closings of Art Six Coffee House and the White House Espresso Bar and Beer Garden, Seley decided to jump on the opportunity and open the property himself.

The recent closings can be discouraging for any potential buyer. Fortunately for Jeff, he had done his research.

“I’ve watched all these restaurants grow [and] some make it, some don’t,” said Jeff, who has been in the restaurant business for over 15 years. “I wanted to spend more time with the kids, no more working late nights. Taco places always seem to be doing great. They’re the next wings. It works well in the area.”

He and his son Joey spent three months remodeling the house and had their grand opening on March 14, 2016, popularly known as Pi Day.

Joey, 21, works with his father as a co-owner and a cook in the kitchen.

“I do everything: cook, cashier, repairs,” Joey said. “I’m also the one who books the shows.”

Joey, who has been by his father’s side since the restaurant opened in 2016, said they have plans to renovate the backyard, potentially building a stage and stringing lights to accommodate the summer live music nights.

“Originally we didn’t plan on having music at all,” Jeff said. “A little after a month of being open, the bands came to us. We tried to accommodate by building a stage in the dining room.”

Joey does all the booking when it comes to local bands and artists. The boys were excited to learn that Denton legend Richard Haskins wanted to perform at the restaurant. He’ll be there April 7, and they expect the turn out to be huge.

Though Richard Haskins is mainly punk, Jeff said that they are open to all genres of music.

“We’ve had jazz, folk, rap, punk, hardcore and even country bands perform,” Jeff said.

All good dreams come with nightmares

While the taco restaurant turned music venue was an exciting part in the duo’s life, it has proven to be extremely tough, as well.

In December 2016, right after the holidays, the Seleys were in complete shock when they returned to work. The taco house had been broken into and destroyed on what Jeff believes was Christmas Eve.

“Stolen televisions, iPads, menu boards, broken furniture, money out of the safe,” Jeff said. “[It was] about $15,000 in property damage and stolen items. I had an old ATM machine that wasn’t even in use stashed in a closet, [and] they destroyed that too.”

Killer’s Tacos’ employee prepares a platter of carnitas tacos. The business prides itself for removing the fat from its meat to provide the best possible quality. Samantha Hardisty

Jeff said the burglars poured concentrated cleaner all over the house, thus ruining the wooden floors.

Just a few months prior to the break in, the restaurant had trespassers just once before. Jeff said those damages were not nearly as bad.

“They only stole a little bit of cash and tried to steal the safe” Jeff said.

The Seleys closed their doors for a week to complete renovations and construction on all the repairs.

Killer’s Tacos now has the whole nine yards when it comes to security, including a camera and burglar system.

“We took the time to make something good out of something bad, and we recovered just fine,” Jeff said. “You can’t keep a good man down.”

And they want their restaurant to prove just that.

 Joey came up with the name “Killer’s Tacos.” “Killer” is the name of a small yet feisty Chihuahua – the “face” of the restaurant.

“We needed a mascot, and we liked the name Killer for a dog, but we didn’t want our dog to be cute and silly [like Taco bell’s dog],” Jeff said. “He needed to be tiny and mean, but smart and edgy. It’s a small place, but it packs a punch.”

Denton community becomes extended family

The Denton community report was the most positive response they had received after the break in. With over 22 thousand views on their Facebook post about the break in, the boys were more than grateful.

“Once they [customers] come in a lot, they’re not even customers any more, they are friends,” Jeff said as he greets a few regulars by first name. “We have lots of good friends that come in, [and we’ve] never had a rude customer ever here. People are so nice and genuine. It’s unbelievable.”

Adam Mack, 37, is a regular at Killer’s Tacos. He comes in for his lunch break, and says he loves the prices.

“I’m not that fancy,” Mack said. “I just like tacos. It’s really good food, and the homemade salsa is the best in town.”

During the restaurants’ one-year-anniversary fundraiser, a total of nine bands took the stage, which resulted in a great turn out of customers and donations.

The same warm feelings that customers and community bring, are also felt by the staff.

“The hours are great, coworkers are even better, and the managers are the best,” waiter and UNT alumnus Julian Villalpando, 22, said. “I get to enjoy being around people who enjoy the same food as me.”

Through the recent break-ins, recoveries and renovations, the changes the restaurant has gone through in its year in Denton portrays the brand in its entirety, as the name Killer’s Tacos implies.

The idea of a little dog with a big ego is exactly what their brand stands for.

“That’s us,” Jeff said. “It’s not the size of the dog, but it’s the will to keep fighting.”

Featured Image: Killer’s Tacos owner Jeff Seley and his son Joey Seley, 21, stand in front of the menu of custom tacos. Jeff Seley says he wouldn’t have started the business without his son. Samantha Hardisty

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Nina Quatrino

Nina Quatrino

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