By Ann Arbor standards, the opening night at Condado Tacos on Liberty brought out the VIPs. Creative Washtenaw CEO Deb Polich came with husband Russ Collins, executive director of the Michigan Theater. Don Knight, who runs his family’s restaurant business, was there with his wife, Angela.

The opening also brought out the top brass at Condado, a  Columbus, Ohio–based chain that specializes in tacos, appetizers, and a full lineup of alcoholic and alcohol-free drinks. Just eight years old, it already has thirty company-owned restaurants. This is the fourth in Michigan, after Detroit, Troy, and Royal Oak. 

It’s revived the northeast corner of Liberty and Division, which had stood vacant since Bar Louie closed early in the pandemic. In a nod to its neighbor, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, the interior has been transformed into a colorful cantina with paintings by local artists that echo sights around Ann Arbor. 

The neighborhood has no shortage of tacos, including Tios and Isalita a few steps away on either side. But “it really comes down to the demographic of the people we think will like Condado tacos,” says Joe Kahn, the company’s founder and largest shareholder. 

The company can take up to four years to decide on a new city, and generally goes on a scouting mission for possible sites. But Kahn says the former Bar Louie “was the first place we saw in Ann Arbor, and we loved it.” 

Condado president Chris Artinian says the average store is 4,000 square feet and has annual revenue of about $4 million. Artinian joined the company from the Beekman Group when the private equity firm made a major investment in Condado in 2020. 

Each store costs an average of seven figures to build or renovate, which is what Condado spent in Ann Arbor, Artinian says. The typical check is $17 to $18, without alcohol, with generous-sized tacos starting at $3.95 each.

Prices rise according to ingredients, and tacos can be customized with a wide variety of meats, plant-based proteins, sauces, and toppings including multiple flavors of guacamole.  “We like to say one is a snack, two is a meal, and to eat three, you have to be really hungry,” Artinian says.

Along with four types of taco shells—hard-shell corn, soft flour, ranch-flavored hard shell, and firecracker, a spicy hard shell—Condado has bowls and a wide variety of appetizers, including queso with multiple toppings, such as corn, chorizo, and chicken, and nachos.

From the looks of the opening night crowd, the tacos were getting a warm reception, and the brightly colored interior was a feast for the eyes, too. 

Condado Tacos, 401 E. Liberty,  (734) 369–3172. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.–midnight. Closed Sun.