Has Torchy's Tacos Been Ripped Off Again?

Categories: Food Fight

920291_614990938528239_530827349_o.jpg
Photo courtesy Torchy's Tacos
Tacos are a contentious beast. And delicious.
Bandito's Taco Grill in Rosenberg makes some good looking tacos. They're also, according to a few tipsters, a little too similar to tacos they've seen at another restaurant, Torchy's Tacos. And they also resemble the tacos at Texas Taco Co., whose former employee was sued by Torchy's for allegedly stealing proprietary recipes. The common denominator in both of the thorns in Torchy's side? A fellow named Adrian Hembree.

According to a reader, who emailed us recently asking us to look into Hembree's dealings in Rosenberg, the entrepreneur and restaurateur is using Torchy's recipes again. Back in October, we told you about a lawsuit brought against former Torchy's cook Mario DeJesus, accused of stealing the Torchy's "Taco Bible" with all its recipes and giving it to Texas Taco Co. The suit states that DeJesus began working for Texas Taco Co. shortly after he was fired from Torchy's for the theft, and then Texas Taco Co. began producing products startlingly similar to those sold at Torchy's. The president and secretary of Texas Taco Co.? Adrian Hembree.

A month later, CultureMap reported that Hembree was also being sued by Anthony Russo of local chain Russo's NY Pizzeria for--you guessed it--stealing proprietary information about recipes. Hembree, his wife Gina, and their business partner Ravinder Syal (a man who'd previously been sued for failing to pay rent at the Fish Place Café) opened a pizza place called Gina's Italian Kitchen, which, Russo claims, makes use of proprietary Russo's NY Pizzeria information.

Now, according to the tipster, Hembree and company are at it again.

We examined the menus of both Torchy's Tacos and Bandito's Taco Grill and found a few similarities.

For example, the "Crossroads" on Torchy's menu is described as "Smoked beef brisket with grilled onions, jalapeños, cilantro, jack cheese and a slice of avocado."

The "Santo" on the Bandito's menu is described as "Slow braised shredded beef brisket, grilled onions, jalapeños, cilantro, avocado, mixed cheese."

Compare the menus for yourself, and you'll find a few more similarities, though none as blatant as what we saw previously at Texas Taco Co. or Gina's Italian Kitchen. Granted, many tacos all over town are fairly similar, so it could be a coincidence.

The tipster also tells us that Hembree is no longer with Texas Taco Co., having left after the allegations of misconduct surfaced, but according to his LinkedIn page, he's still involved with Texas Taco Co., Gina's Italian Kitchen and The Fish Place. It also notes that he's currently president of Hembree Management Group, which works with "existing mulit-unit concepts in order to improve various aspects of overall business performance."

Calls to Hembree have not yet been returned.

What do you think? Is Bandito's a Torchy's rip-off? Will you be checking it out?

Location Info

Bandito's Taco Grill

503 FM 2977, Rosenberg, TX

Category: Restaurant

Torchy's Tacos

2400 Times Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Texas Taco Co.

4609 Garth Road, Baytown, TX

Category: Restaurant

Russo's New York Pizzeria

604 Polk St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
59 comments
h_e_x
h_e_x

Of course they would sue, they are litigious crackers.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

It is evident from the comments that many people fail to understand the nature of the lawsuit.  They are not suing simply because a place is serving similar tacos. They are suing because they claim a former employee stole trade secrets and that the employee had signed an agreement not to disclose Torchy's trade secrets.


I suspect that if Torchy's can prove that this guy did sign nondisclosure forms, and that if dude did steal trade secrets, and that Banditos (or Texas Taco Co.) knew about all this and tried to profit from it, then Torchy's could win.  But I think it's a longshot.

elmario722
elmario722

banditos was good but, it wasnt like mama makes em. So I'm confused should I be suing too? Cause clearly they stole my great grandmothers' way of serving food on a  tortilla. 

TheBestCritic1
TheBestCritic1

This whole story and trailing comments is so stupid is funny.  I knew I should have gotten a patent on spaghetti and meatballs!!!!  Really folks does anyone really GAF???  This is a advertising/publicity scam and the whole city is falling for it.

crtulip
crtulip

This is funny. I don't read up on this crap normally but do donut companies sue each other? "I made the donut hole first" " I made strawberry with sprinkles" . Geez

TheBestCritic1
TheBestCritic1

Torchy is the thief, stolen from the mexicans!!!  By the way, who give a $hit!!!

LMac667
LMac667

One of the tacos you presented is "smoked brisket" the other is "slow braised". Slow braised is oven cooked and very juicy. Smoked... Not the same method. The suit is over recipes. This looks like two different recipes. Different tastes too! Try the two yourself. This article holds no warrant. Sounds like the tipster is someone a little disgruntled!

Havana5771
Havana5771

You want to talk about startling similarities? How about the fact that both restaurants serve tacos? Or that they house similar ingredients like beef, chicken, and avocado? Do they use similar tortillas? Is this article at all worth reading?! 



No, no its not. A taco is a fucking taco, the fact that anyone would stake claim that certain taco combinations are intellectual property is looking for the quickest way to make a buck from junk lawsuits without having to delve into intense litigation. 

ShitThrowingMonkey
ShitThrowingMonkey

There are two kinds of people in this world...Those who eat fancy tacos and those who do not.  I am not ashamed to admit that I partake in a fancy taco from time to time.

Amy Coco Lane
Amy Coco Lane

Its a freaking taco... There isn't many ingredients that haven't been put on one! Get over it Torchy's!!

Richard Chapa
Richard Chapa

Justin Montez this just open right down the road from me..

Nay Chang
Nay Chang

White people making tacos, and you wanna accuse someone else of stealing?

Keith Freitag
Keith Freitag

Who cares, those torchy tacos suck.. Tried twice bc I don't base decision off one experience. There's nothing original about torchys to steal

fork_u
fork_u

this is such bullshit. why patronize or give two shits about Torchy's when Houston already has some of the best AUTHENTIC taco trucks and tex-mex restaurants in the nation. fuck Torchy's

Harlan Pepper
Harlan Pepper

Christian Leigh ya like they invented tacos or something lol

Ivan Jimenez
Ivan Jimenez

if don't have Pig belly it aint no taco I want

Jesse Basham
Jesse Basham

Surely I'm not the only one who sees the irony in theft allegations of appropriated gentry tacos.

Melissa Reyna
Melissa Reyna

There is a thin line between similar and imitation, and duplication. I feel that It's all in the eye of the beholder - the one who believes they do it better than the others. But lets face it, Bandito's Taco Grill's name doesn't help their case much? lol

bbrowne
bbrowne

Considering I live in Rosenberg and work in west Houston, I have never entertained the idea of going to Torchy's. It's far from Rosenberg, I don't like dealing with parking. And trust me - I've had great tacos right in and around Rosenberg, so I don't think it's worth the effort.

So I was excited to see this new taco place open up, I can't wait to try it. Bottom line is - it's hardly a concern that they will take customers away from Torchy's, and it's a taco, man. There is only so much you can do with a finite list of ingredients that appeal to the masses before it's been done before. 


Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@h_e_x 

I would think you might due the same if an employee of yours sold your trade secrets despite having signed a nondisclosure agreement.

zmichaeljoseph
zmichaeljoseph

It reminds me of vetmanese opening "cajun" restaurants.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@fork_u 

Have you had the Diablo Sauce at Torchy's?  It is excellent and a bit different from other habanero sauces that are dominated by vinegar.

carberrymt
carberrymt

@bbrowne completely agree. Torchy's is THE single most overrated taco restaurant in the state. Everything they do has already been done by a real taco truck 20 years ago. If anything, Torchy's is guilty of ripping off every taco over made. The only thing they do different is they prepare the proteins in a slightly different way. Every other ingredient is a staple of decades of Tex-Mex tacos.

To think that this story was even written is a testament as to how starved (no pun intended) this blog is for content. Anybody suing over a taco ingredient list composed of beef, jalapeno, onions, avocado, cilantro and cheese is insane.

Not to mention, Torchy's is from Austin, and they're very proud of that fact. I'd support a real local business any day over them.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@bbrowne 

You're thinking of Taco Bell, not Torchy's. Torchy's uses some ingredients not typically found in your garden variety tacos.  Also, their Diablo Sauce is fantastic.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@Bruce_Are @h_e_x Trade secrets for prissy tacos? That alone should be a massive red flag to avoid the place.

lawreview0u812
lawreview0u812

@Bruce_Are @h_e_x  Bruce...You definitely sound like a freedom fighter; however, I have a couple of questions for you?


1.  What happened to the video of the taco bible being stolen?  Torchy's gave sworn testimony to the fact that they had it...but when asked to produce it for the court, it somehow was lost.  Sounds fishy?


2.  What happened to the non-disclosure agreement for Mario Dejesus.  Once again, Torchy's submitted sworn testimony to the fact that they had a signed agreement from Mario, but once again, when asked to produce the form it non longer existed as well. 


h_e_x, definitely sounds like a case of "litigious cracker" syndrome. 

fork_u
fork_u

@Bruce_Are  I don't care about any fucking sauce!!! I don't need some over-priced hipster taco joint from Austin when I've had better stuff here in Houston for decades!

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@carberrymt 

I'm thinking you've never been to Torchy's. They are popular, IMO, because they are different from taquerias and taco trucks. 

Anse
Anse

@carberrymt @bbrowne I've noticed that Torchy's-bashing has become something of a tradition. Is it worth the mad wait one often finds at lunch at the Heights location? Not really. But some of their tacos are damn good. And I've eaten a lot of tacos, but I've never had a fried avocado taco until I went to Torchy's, nor have I ever had one like the Trailer Park. 


I think the Torchy's hate is more about being hip enough to disdain the popular thing than about any reasonable dislike for the food. There are two types of taco in the world: the authentically Mexican kind, and the gringo kind. There's room in the world for both, and Torchy's does a pretty good job of nailing the gringo variety.

neilquan
neilquan

@Bruce_Are @bbrowne


Bruce I have had Tacos in other cities with similar ingredients as what they serve at Torchy's. A Torchy's taco is hardly ground breaking. The combination of the items on the menu as a whole maybe unique, but no one taco is truly unique. Diablo sauce is good though.

bbrowne
bbrowne

@Bruce_Are @bbrowne There are a ton of 'gourmet' or whatever taco places. Are you saying none of them use ingredients like Torchy's? I know I've had something like the 'Santo' taco before, from a food truck. There's nothing that unique about it that it won't show up at a variety of restaurants and trucks across the US. 

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@lawreview0u812 

I agree that Torchy's has the burden of proof. But most of the comments here suggest that Torchy's is simply suing because other places are making similar tacos, which is not true.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@fork_u 

I'll take that as a no. So you don't know what you're talking about. I'm thinking that by "decades" you're talking about maybe 1.5 to 2.0. Must be nice to finally be able to drop f-bombs now that mom isn't looking over your shoulder.

carberrymt
carberrymt

@anse I actually agree with you about the bashing, and shall attempt to make my critique moreso on this "story" rather than anything else. The story itself, I feel is completely bogus. This argument is based off the claim that a taco has the same ingredients as another taco. In response to @kendoll you cannot patent a recipe if it is merely the sum of the parts that make it. Food products may only be patented if the combination of ingredients or the way in which it is processed lead to a totally new product. At the end of the day no matter what you put into a taco, it will always be a taco. As I see it, this man has done little more than copy the menu for lack of inventiveness, but suing a company for assembling a similar taco in a world of tacos that are all 99% the same feels a little ridiculous to me.

kendoll
kendoll

@Anse @carberrymt @bbrowne - agree with Anse.  and it might be true that there are only a finite number of ingredients that go into a taco, but it's still ripping off their recipe.  companies can patent products and make royalties off similar ones. for cooks, their product is their recipes and food.  if these other people want to open a restaurant, then do it the right way and make your own...and make it a goal to be BETTER than torchy's. 

crtulip
crtulip

Hmmm? Is there a suit between H-Town StrEATS and Torchys over the fried avocado taco? Do one of them claim to own it!? Lol

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...