Upcoming Research Triangle Park restaurant Leroy’s Taco Shop (900 Park Offices Drive) came about because pitmaster Jake Wood had a craving for birria tacos and couldn’t find them. “Five years ago, no one in the area was really doing them,” says Wood, “A few food trucks had them, but no one was doing them with the huge cheese skirt.” Wood is referencing the quesabirria version of tacos that seemed to take over everyone’s Instagram feed around 2019.
When he wasn’t running popular smoked meat spot Lawrence BBQ (900 Park Offices Drive) and tiki bar Lagoon (900 Park Offices Drive), Wood was at home attempting to perfect quesabirria with brisket scraps from his restaurant. “It started in my backyard, but I could not wait to do it as a feature at Lawrence,” he says. The first time the tacos were offered at the barbecue shop, popular food influencer Megan Nichols of NC Eat & Play put the cheesy creations on TikTok, and it blew up. “It set our shop on fire,” says Wood, “We had no idea that was going to happen.”
Lawrence BBQ tried to keep up with the demand for quesabirria, but with long lines of hungry customers and only a small flattop to crisp up the tacos, it started to become unsustainable. “We got really sick and tired of disappointing people when they showed up, and we did not have them,” says Wood, “So we stopped doing them, but I knew it was a great product and thought we could build a concept around it.”
Luckily for fans of the tacos, Wood found a space a few doors down from Lawrence BBQ in Boxyard RTP, and now Leroy’s Taco Shop will open on Saturday, March 25. The menu includes the smoked brisket birria, but there’s also pulled pork carnitas, carne asada, crispy fish tacos, stewed hominy, poblano cheese dip, and plenty of salsas.
Wood says he picked these items, because he would often order them at other restaurants, like his favorite, Taqueria El Toro (3600 Junction Boulevard). “We did not create any of this food or any of these flavors,” says Wood, “We love them dearly. We love the culture. We love the amount of care that goes into the food. And as we do at Lawrence BBQ, we’re going to try to elevate the plating and try for a very Instagrammable presentation. We want to mesh the two worlds: the world that we’re living in and the world that we want to get to know more about.”
As for other Instagram-friendly aspects of Leroy’s Taco Shop, the space is filled with ‘90s nostalgia — think Ninja Turtle action figures, a Barbie collection, and Nickelodeon throwbacks on the television. It’s the culture that Wood grew up in, and he hopes it will brighten the day of any other ‘90s babies who visit his shop.
“Just like at Lawrence, we want you to come to our doors with an open mind and an open heart,” says Wood, “We just really want to make delicious tacos and hope that everyone just really enjoys themselves.”
Starting tomorrow, Leroy’s Taco Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.