The writer was invited to visit Tio Taco & Tequila Bar and the meal was complimentary.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, FLOOR! And while that can certainly be said for me, if you find yourself at Tio Taco & Tequila Bar in Edison, NJ, you have 97 more shots to go! Yes, you did the math right; that’s 100 tequilas to try. And that’s exactly what the bar offers. This, among other tasty details, I recently learned when I sat down with part-owner/marketing director Andrea Bonfiglio. She and her family are the faces behind Triple T Hospitality Group, which owns and operates all the Tommy’s Tavern & Tap locations. The group now proudly presents its latest concept: Tio Taco & Tequila Bar.
If you’ve ever been to a Tommy’s establishment, you know all too well how diverse and varied their menus are. They include top-notch wings, pizza, burgers, and sushi. But here, at Tio, they really zeroed in on a single concept and ran with it.
What made them go Mexican? “We just love the food,” Bonfiglio explained. “When we looked at Tommy’s menu, we realized it had everything but a Mexican focus,” she added. “Total foodies,” is how she described her tight-knit family, and they were super psyched to get this ball rolling.
Interestingly, the first menu, developed by culinary director Chris Perrino, was not a perfect fit. “He went more on the authentic route, and we were looking to be less traditional,” Bonfiglio explained. Their vision called for a bold-flavored, eclectic, and unique offering. For Perrino’s second time around, “He nailed it.”
I couldn’t agree more. Once you look over the menu, you will immediately notice the attention paid to detail and recipe development. The jalapeño cornbread, for instance, is topped with a habanero chile butter.
The veggie tacos are stuffed with portobello mushrooms and topped with a velvety poblano rajas. The ladder is a poblano pepper sauce made from cream and goat cheese that really made this taco feel indulgent, hearty, and super addictive!
Among the fan faves, I learned, are the shrimp tacos. Again, the little details I noted: ranchero aioli with a lime crema, made this selection’s MVP status warranted. Another in-demand item? The beef empanadas.
After one bite, I could totally see why. Encased in a golden fried flaky shell, the filling was spot on and satisfying. The meat was not only abundant but so juicy—a credit to the Tio sofrito, I’d bet. Served with a chipotle crema and a sprinkle of cotija cheese, they had me swooning.
At the Bar
Beyond the food menu, the restaurant has a seriously stacked bar. And in case you missed it, they have 100 types of tequila! Beverage director Mike Spence researched hundreds of tequilas and hand-curated the vast list. These high-proofed bottles are the magical ingredient in their “so popular” margaritas and the signature frozen margarita flight tasting.
This tasting is comprised of four 5-oz mini frozen margaritas, which guests can personalize with a fruit flavor of their choosing. I sampled the mango, prickly pear, coconut, and blood orange. While I found them all delicious, I enjoyed the blood orange the most. A little tart, a touch sweet, a zing from the tequila, made those 5 ounces disappear in no time.
Not a margarita person? No worries, the drink menu includes some unique cocktails, mules, and of course, sangria! It’s safe to say you won’t go thirsty here.
Precautions in Place
And while your hunger and thirst needs are met, it is a must to report that your safety needs are met as well during this uncertain time. Daily temperature checks are required for all staff, tables set sixfeet apart, and a text messaging system allows guests to wait in their cars for seating, as capacity is limited to 25%. For those of us who prefer to eat outside, Tio has you covered, literally, with two covered areas that allow for open air, fire pits, and heating lamps.
A Good Vibe
Whether you find your seat inside or outside, you will love being there. When asked what “one word” comes to mind when you think of Tio, Bonfiglio and general manager Danielle Smith, both answered, “vibe.” Designed and branded by Bonfiglio’s sister, Christina Bonfiglio, I immediately knew what they meant.
The vibe starts with Tio’s look. It’s rustic-casual cafe meets industrial workspace, and every day is the Day of the Dead. With Mexican-inspired artwork displayed throughout and glass skulls illuminating each tabletop, the space will not only be a conversation starter but a backdrop for a lively night. And while the Day of the Dead honors those who have passed, this place will make you feel nothing but alive.
What’s Ahead for Tio
When I asked what Bonfiglio is particularly excited for, she answered with enthusiasm. “Seeing this place develop and grow post the pandemic.” Watching the staff and team expand and continue to evolve is something she is clearly very passionate about. And grow they will! With a new location opening in Marlboro this spring, it’s safe to say ample work opportunities will reveal themselves.
While Bonfiglio was, “very nervous opening a new restaurant concept during a pandemic,” she seemed anything but nervous while we chatted. It was easy to see how much she loves this place. Maybe it was the margaritas or maybe it was truly the ‘vibe’ embracing me, but in the end, I was feeling the love as well.
Tio Taco & Tequila Bar
Edison, NJ 08817
Follow Gina Glazier at @ahungryteacher.