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“How hot do you want it?” It’s a hot summer night with drizzling rain in the streets in Towanda. Two upper doors are wrapped, providing relief from rain and heat. Clients talk and dine while watching Susquehanna receive fresh water.

At Flying Taco Mexican Grill, the issue of seasoning is taken very seriously. There are seven types of salsa, all fresh on the job. You get three items with the tortilla chips – you can pick this up or assign it to your server. There’s a great list of margaritas available – try enough of the flavors and the tacos will shine. Can you have guac and queso? What kind of question is this?

In less than a year, Flying Taco opened during the pandemic and is owned by people who know nothing of the restaurant business. But the place thrived in a way that exceeded all expectations. Even a rainy Wednesday sees almost every seat.

“We were busy right away,” says Ann Smith, beaming with the crowds and the full-capacity bar. The place has an instant feel of a neighborhood hangout. Clients run the gamut from date nights to families to people picking up some of the game on the bar TV.

Anne and her partner Shelby Burgess bought the building at an auction, and raced it until the hammer fell. “My husband said if you don’t get this, we’ll find another,” Ann says. “I said, ‘No, it must be this building.'” Formerly Flying Cow Bakery, located on one corner a block from North Main Street, near the historic Bradford County Courthouse (Twanda is the county seat). It has a river view and also boasts rooftop seating with tables and games. Ann and Shelby have added a patio area for good weather and are planning to offer a self-service food truck type of snack food.

“This rooftop is so great for lunch,” says one restaurant. “We came from the county building and it’s a great break from work.”

Despite the complete lack of food service experience, the opportunity to open Flying Taco was too good to be missed. “I don’t want to have as many desires, what can, should be in life,” Ann says. “This was our chance.”

Here, those ubiquitous chips in all Mexican restaurants are light and crisp and are just the right kind of salty. Tacos are made the traditional way with corn or tortilla bread. Order a hard shell taco and you’ll get a side look. The macha sauce has a spice blend that sneaks up on you after a minute. But the touch is more a kiss than a slap. Marinated chicken, black mahi mahi, aracera (skirt steak), and spicy pork are the proteins served. There’s even a homage to the building’s previous identity. The Flying Cow Street taco is smoked brisket, diced onions, cilantro, and queso fresco, topped with a pineapple sauce.

Portions are reasonable without overeating, and there are many sides and extras if you can find more space in your stomach.

“Mexican food is made to order – all ingredients are fresh with a chef who knows real Mexican cuisine,” says Ann. The staff have the rates to pull it off. Shelby’s parents were raised in Mexico. The chefs hail from San Salvador and Puerto Rico. The menu is in Spanish from one side, just to make things accessible to all visitors.

The kitchen of the kitchen is bursting with brilliant colors of fresh produce and aromatic spices. There is no jar or bottle to be seen. As much as possible is collected from local sources, including meat. The staff works in an orderly mess, with a healthy dose of smiles and laughter. Happiness comes through food.

“Make your own meal by choosing chips, sauce, and side dishes,” Shelby says. “We use legitimate Mexican proteins, pork, chorizo, and fish like mahi mahi and shrimp.”

He points out a popular Mexican-American fast-food restaurant, and Shelby laughs. “My mother saw that they use ground beef. She was like, What is this? I have never used ground beef in my life.”

Flying Taco strives to be more than just another restaurant, and the owners have given a lot of thought to the actual experience of dining out. An old shuffleboard and pool table invite people to spend an evening of their meal and not just eat and run. Hand-blended margaritas and cold beer make an ordinary night a party.

Anne has a constant presence between tables, working in the room as if she were working at a desk, taking pictures of clients and listening. She seems to know everyone.

“We get some great ideas from our clients,” she says. “Employees often get together after closing and look for new menu items and new types of services to add.” This includes an open mic evening on Wednesdays, which attracts a talented group of local musicians and singers.

“We want our guests to gather here, have fun, and enjoy the explosive flavor that our menu provides,” Shelby says.

Flying Taco Mexican Grill is located on 7 State Street in Towanda. There is a municipal parking garage next door, which alleviates many of the parking problems common to riverside businesses. Parking is free on weekends and after 5pm on weekdays, and it’s less than a minute’s walk from the door. The restaurant is closed on Mondays, open from 4pm to 10pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 11am to 10pm on all other days. Call (570) 637-0348 and find them on Facebook, where there’s information on tacos, tunes, and tequila.

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