Former Smiling Goat Saloon, now a restaurant, is nearing completion

ZANESVILLE – The opening of La Cabra Craft Tacos has taken longer than Darren Tigner and wife Kristy envisioned, but their dream on Linden Avenue will soon be realized.

The city’s first craft taco restaurant, home of the former Smiling Goat Saloon, planned to make its debut sometime before May. Between supply chain and code issues with the remodeling of the building, however, there have been many roadblocks.

Finally, they are nearing the finish line. The establishment will launch to the public on Saturday, with indoor, outdoor and take-out dining available.

“It has been hectic,” Tigner said. “Anytime you are taking on a construction project in a building that was built in the 1920s, and taking on something as large an undertaking in a small space, presents challenges.”

While some of the old character and interior décor of the Goat remains, such as the rustic brick interior and the newly refurbished bar area, much has changed.

It is particularly evident with the fresh white paint on the exterior of the building, along with the newly remodeled upstairs.

That included the purchase and installation of a new commercial hood, meat grinder and vertical rotisserie machine for the kitchen, which sits in the former upstairs bar area. The area has been completely remodeled to accommodate the anticipated workload. 

The building had to comply with building, fire and health codes before getting the clear to operate.

“We’re very fortunate that we live in a small town and can put some heads together,” Tigner said of the construction efforts.

The painting of the exterior of the building, now white on brick, is nearing completion. High back booths have been installed upstairs and downstairs, while the bar has been refinished with new stools added.

Tigner said part of the delay was due to the four-week backup on getting the booths delivered.

“Obviously the delays were undesirable but you really can’t get around the delays,” Tigner said. “I think it looks really good. Jimmy Drake has done a great job (with the interior). It has been an all hands on deck thing with everyone involved.”

Tigner said his business will be fighting the same staffing problems as other restaurants, so he asked for customers to be patient giving the expected stress associated with a grand opening. He also urged them to use their smartphone app to place takeout orders. 

Their website ( is already up and running, and prospective employees can apply for positions online. The menu is being headed by Executive Chef Nathan Noland, formerly of The Warehouse in Coshocton.

“Nate has really come up with some cool recipes,” Tigner said.

There will be multiple types of tacos, including a flight option that allows customers to sample four different hard shell varieties. There is also a double decker, with a combination of hard and soft shell

There are also some of Noland’s original creations, such as a tater tot bowl and crunchwich, which is a combination of a hard and soft shell tortilla that is seared with melted cheese on top. Customers can also create their own ideas.

Only the tortillas and chips will be outsourced. Tigner hopes those, too, will be made in-house once the staffing is settled. 

“There are a lot of portability with those things,” Tigner said of the versatility of the recipes. “Nintey-five percent of the menu will be made in house.”

Behind the bar, freshly made margaritas (Smoky Chipotle Peach, Pineapple Basil, Pineapple Cilantro and Strawberry Basil) and four local beers on tap, are the headline act. Specialty margaritas are infused and formulated by Front Manager Brody Warden with natural ingredients.

Tigner solicited taste testers to try some menu items in advance, which he said received overwhelming response. They netted “amazing” results, he said.

“Just the amount of people that are interested is really good from our standpoint,” Tigner said. “They are as excited for this place to open as we are to open it.”

And that can’t come soon enough.

“We know the work and sacrifice we are putting in now will make it so much easier for our staff going forward,” Tigner said. “You keep that vision as to what you want this thing to look like. (As a former basketball player) I kind of compare it to a sports analogy. All of the stuff you sacrifice for, you do it for a vision and a goal. It’s the same concept. You’re doing it for knowing at the end you’re going to reap the benefit.”

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Twitter: @SamBlackburnTR

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