As they announced a few days ago via Facebook, Good 2 Go Taco will serve its last tacos today before shuttering for good. (If this is news to you, by all means, stop reading now and drive over to the East Dallas outpost for your last brisket-laden Early Riser or Honeybear with crispy-sweet honey-glazed bacon. But then come back, because the story of how co-owners Jeana Johnson and Colleen O’Hare turned this corner of Peavy and Garland into the vibrant spot it is today is an interesting one.)
Fierce loyalty undergirds the transformation. “I’ve lived in East Dallas since long before I went to culinary school,” says Johnson, who moved to the neighborhood around 2004. Johnson is from a small town in East Texas and the “cordoned off, separated from the rest of the city ” feeling appealed to her, reminded her of home.
“It was a place where just about everyone in the service industry rented a home at the time,” she says. Here, the core group that would ultimately flesh out the three-property enclave—Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House and 20 Feet Seafood Joint—hung out, intersecting at The Green Room and Trees in their day jobs, but returning home to East Dallas.
Despite the high density of restaurant folk, chain restaurants dominated this parcel of the city: El Fenix, Chili’s. “I wish someone would open someplace, I wish someone would someplace,” was Johnson’s mantra of need. What she meant, what she craved, was the kind of place where “you could point at the owner and say, ‘That’s who owns this place.’ That’s the places I like to go,” she says, where you know the folks behind things. She would have to be that someone.
The casual taco counter she opened with O’Hare as an incubator project inside the Green Spot market on Buckner almost immediately shot onto Dallas best lists and snagged national television attention, achieving a success in its first year (2009) that allowed the pair to contemplate opening a brick and mortar. Offers abounded, invitations to consider places in Oak Cliff, for example. But the duo was firm about where their loyalties lay. “We wanted to dance with the ones who brought us,” says Johnson. They would be staying in East Dallas. Though property options were scant.
The spot they considered as an absolute last option was a derelict patch of commercial decrepitude and urban decay. Gazing at its potential was like contemplating a field of weeds.
“We had to physically move people in the first few weeks,” Johnson said and fill dumpster after dumpster with furniture and debris. The property, unoccupied for six years, was “just a wreck,” Johnson says. “The previous owner was murdered inside the building”—as had been the one before that. “As of tomorrow, when we close down, we will have successfully outlived the curse of 1146 Peavy Road,” Johnson said yesterday, laughing. “We took $20,000 bucks and turned it into what at the time anyone would have called a taco empire.” And, ultimately, galvanized a mini urban renewal, operating from a simple mindset: “Okay, this is the spot we’ve chosen, and now it’s up to us to bring in the power players, like-minded people.” Enter Matt Tobin of Goodfriend, Marc Cassel of 20 Feet, and it was rolling from there. Cultivar coffee got its legs on this corner, and Cowtipping Creamery made it a home.
Johnson’s words to the customers who came in yesterday, responding to the surprise of the Facebook post announcement, was “Thanks for your loyalty.” She hoped the mood would not be somber. “Crank the music, have a taco, and we’ll see you in the neighborhood,” she said. “I spend all my money in this ZIP code, so it’s not like we’re not going to see each other again.”
On the horizon for Johnson: a project teaming up with Maple & Motor’s Jack Perkins, who will open a new restaurant, Mockingbird Diner, on the land that as of yesterday no longer holds the Love Field Inn (as Escape Hatch reported, bulldozing has begun). Johnson will be the chef at the roughly 200-seat institution.
Meanwhile, the taco she’ll be making at home is the Hotlanta, sparked by an aisle-end stand at Central Market and “one of the happiest mistakes I’ve made.” Boxes of pancake mix and jars of honeycomb spurred the taco R&D epiphany: a raft of waffle-battered chicken, roasted sweet potato hash, and honey butter …
Yes, we remember that one.