Green tacos, anyone?
The owners of Taco Boy on Folly Beach are opening a second location, in Charleston's upper peninsula area, while trying to minimize the impact the new venture will have on the environment.
The restaurant, which could open by the end of the year, will be built on Huger Street, a quiet road that connects two busy downtown Charleston thoroughfares near the base of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
Owners Karalee Nielsen and Tim Mink of Rev Foods are planning to build the restaurant around the remains of an aging industrial building, adding "green" improvements that include a rainwater capture system, wind-generated power spires and a porous concrete patio.
The eco-friendly building techniques are meant to offset the facility's carbon footprint. Restaurants typically generate large amounts of waste and consume a fair amount of power because they operate during late night hours, rely heavily on air conditioning to keep customers comfortable and run industrial-sized cooking appliances and venting systems, Nielsen explained.
"We're trying to set a good example," she said.
The company is waiting for city permits. Its proposed restaurant site is a 3-acre lot with an aging warehouse building. The existing structure formerly was a bread distribution facility.
The warehouse was well-built, engineers told Nielsen, so the group will be able to keep its floors and framing. The elevated platform where workers used to load pallets onto to trucks will be converted into a dining area.
An open field behind the building is where workers will grow the restaurant's jalapeno peppers, Nielsen said. Right now, Rev Food employees are taking fruit and vegetable waste from two of the company's downtown restaurants — Monza and Raval — and mixing it with sawdust at the Huger Street site, creating a compost that is meant to renourish the soil.
The project will be built with other green features:
--The concrete walkway in the outdoor courtyard will have small openings allowing water to pass through and minimizing runoff that gets into the sewer system.
--Some 25-foot-tall wind spires that could generate about 3 percent of the restaurant's electricity.
--A rainwater capture system will collect water that can be used to wash trash bins and water outside plants.
--Doors and stained-glass windows salvaged from an Atlanta building that was being demolished.
--A roof with a four-inch-thick layer of soil for extra insulation.
--A storage shed where employees can sort out recyclable materials from trash. Nielson said that practice has reduced waste at her company's other restaurants by 75 percent.
That approach might sound new, she said, but much of it is based on principles that predate the Industrial Revolution.
The new restaurant will open in a neighborhood that didn't see much activity until the Ravenel Bridge dropped a network of off-ramps and on-ramps nearby.
A Kangaroo gas station is set to be built less than a block away, where Huger meets Meeting Street. And on the other side of bridge's elevated span, a local development group called Wecco of Charleston is completing two condominiums and a commercial building.
Nielsen said the area still is undergoing a transformation. But she said she hopes that Taco Boy loyalists will come to the spot anyway.