When Liz Solomon Dwyer opened her first King David Tacos (KDT) cart in 2017, breakfast tacos were not really a thing in New York City. Four years prior, the New York Times had published a story alluding to the idea that breakfast tacos were emerging in the big city, but that largely, New Yorkers still didn’t really understand what they were. Fast forward to May 2022, and KDT was named one of “New York’s Next Great Breakfast Destinations” in the Times.
“I think it’s a testament to how far we’ve come in six years of doing this that breakfast tacos can be considered a contender with the people who are also doing traditional breakfasts, Southern breakfasts in New York, a bunch of pastries and things like that,” Solomon Dwyer says. “To have breakfast tacos in that cohort was hugely satisfying because it means that we’re part of the morning fabric, which is what we set out to do.”
With a brick-and-mortar in Prospect Heights, three breakfast taco carts in partnership with Blank Street throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and KDT breakfast tacos available at Whole Foods and over 70 retailers throughout the city, Solomon Dwyer has clearly hit on something New Yorkers are loving. So, Edible Manhattan sat down with the founder to discuss what it was like in the beginning for KDT, how New Yorkers responded to breakfast tacos and KDT’s secret menu.
Q: What was the reception to breakfast tacos like when you first opened?
A: It was definitely, definitely mixed. It was so unheard of and unique. Breakfast tacos were not around in New York City at the time, and so on one hand, we got a lot of attention. I think if we were doing what we did with any other food, it wouldn’t have been newsworthy, but because breakfast tacos were not in New York, it was newsworthy. And the flip side of that was people just literally not knowing what breakfast tacos were was a challenge. I knew it was a challenge we were going to be up against, but still every time someone asked me, “What is a breakfast taco?”, it kind of blew my mind.
People really didn’t know what breakfast tacos were?
Yes, 100 percent. We got that question all the time at our Prospect Park cart. All the time.
Wow, I wouldn’t have thought that!
I was happy to help educate the masses on what a breakfast taco is. We rarely get that question anymore. I got it for the first time in probably several years at an event we were at the other day, and they were like, “Is it, like, spaghetti in a taco?” And I was like, “What? What?” No, this is not Smorgasburg food. It sounded so, like, unreal to her that she was like, “Is this some kind of gimmick?” So I mean, once people figured out what it was, people just vacuumed it up.
How did you determine what kinds of tacos you would serve? I know you guys have your staple tacos, but you also serve some special ones every so often. So how did you determine what the staple tacos would be?
Yeah, so it’s interesting. I mean, I look back and I’m like, it seems like I made some good decisions! So we started with just two tacos and one salsa. I needed one meat and one vegetarian to be the kind of entry-level tacos that had bacon, potato, egg and cheese, and then beans, potato, egg and cheese. Now, some people will fight me that beans and eggs don’t go together, but they’re lying because that’s our best-selling taco.
We’re talking about the Queen Bean taco?
The Queen Bean and the BPEC were our first two tacos. And it was just a matter of trying to hit as many dietary and taste preferences as we could. It’s totally customizable, like we can do a bean-and-cheese from the Queen Bean; technically, you can take the beans out and make a potato, egg and cheese. Not that we were offering that, but if we got a request from someone who didn’t want cheese, you just take the cheese off of those, and you still have a great taco. So it gave me the most flexibility and also the most focused approach.
Then I added a chorizo taco third, the Or’izo, and that again was like, to me, the most common breakfast taco. People who didn’t want bacon wanted something a little bit more, not necessarily spicy, but just not your run-of-the-mill bacon. The chorizo was for them. With the chorizo, I didn’t feel like the red salsa went the best with it. So that’s how I introduced the verde. Our verde salsa was made to complement the chorizo.
From there came Mom’s Migas. I was just kind of working my way through the boilerplate breakfast tacos. And it kept expanding as I felt we had the volume to be able to handle more varieties and we had the production capabilities to do it.
And then it was necessary to add a non-dairy version to our core menu. So that’s the No. 5, which gets its name because it’s literally the fifth taco. Most people don’t realize that; they don’t need to. It’s also like an homage to…you know on Tex-Mex menus, combo plates are like the number one plate, the number two plate…the number five. We were doing these modified tacos without cheese, and we could do a vegan taco with beans and potatoes but wanted something to hit the vegan crowd and the non-dairy crowd on a permanent basis, so that was the No. 5.
We stayed with our five core tacos for a very long time. And then when we opened our brick-and-mortar, that’s when we added the Lunch-ish menu, and we also snuck in a PEC, the potato, egg and cheese, which is kind of a joke in the office. I talk a lot of shit about the PEC. It’s a great taco, but I am like, “this is so boring!” But that’s really your gateway taco, I would say.
So how often do you guys change out the specials?
It was every month, and then COVID put a wrench in everything. It felt like, for the past couple of years, that we were at our max every single day, to be honest, and so, to add something else to the load was just unthinkable for a while. But we’re back now, so we are wanting to continue adding specials every month. At some point we’re either going to have to make the bacon, bean and cheese into a permanent menu item or let it go. But everyone loves it. So yeah, monthly is the goal. But as I also tell the team, like, if it’s selling and people love it, we make the rules.
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So, I just have one more question for you that I’ve wondered for a while: Where did the name “King David Tacos” come from?
It’s funny, with Father’s Day coming up, I really have done some soul-searching lately. So it’s named after my dad. And it is 100 percent meant to be, like, tongue-in-cheek, ambiguously Jewish. I mean, it is Jewish. I am Jewish. But it’s meant to be ambiguously religious because you see all these King David, King Solomon, all these biblical references in New York, which was new to me when I first moved here.
When I moved here, my dad said, “You should quit your job and start a breakfast taco stand.” And I said, “That’s insane.” And then I did it like 10 years later. And during that time, he had been diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, and he was on the decline, and I was working, and I had this internal struggle of like, you know, do you take a leap because you never know what will happen in your life? And I had toyed with the idea of starting this breakfast taco company. I was in advertising, and I knew New York better at that point. I was like, there really is an opportunity here, and I would kind of fantasize about doing it.
I always had the idea that the name was going to be named after my dad. He was alive at the time, but it was being named in his honor. It was technically his idea. And I knew it could be humorous and endearing and also serious. It was unique enough that it could be a name on the national scene, but it also really rang true with New Yorkers. And it was also true to my upbringing and my heritage and this whole, like, blending of being a Jew from Texas doing Tex-Mex, which is a blending of cultures.
Feature photo depicts the BPEC taco and is courtesy of King David Tacos.