Liz Solomon swears a lot. She swears on the phone (with a slight hint of a Southern drawl), she swears in casual conversation (she’ll make anyone feel like an old friend), and she swears that her breakfast tacos are the best you’ll find in New York City (they just might be).
Solomon, 34, is the founder and CEO of King David Tacos, which sells its wares from two food carts in the city — one on Wall Street, and one in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Born and bred in Austin, Texas, Solomon moved to the city in 2006 with an advertising degree and an advertising job offer at Worldwide Plaza. She quickly realized that her new home was missing a certain something, and that something was breakfast tacos — Austin’s morning meal of choice.
A decade, a death in the family, and a new purpose later, Solomon found herself opening New York’s first grab-and-go breakfast taco cart. And if you ask Solomon, this is only the beginning of her breakfast taco takeover.
Would you agree that your company grew out of a hole in the NYC market?
Yes, when I moved to New York I was so confused why there weren’t breakfast tacos here. Not just because it’s like, oh I’m from Texas and I’ve got a bone to pick, but it’s a very convenient breakfast. And the way that I was raised on them, they’re not overly fatty or indulgent, so it’s something that you can eat many times a week. I saw a hole in the market, and I knew I could fill it. So King David Tacos is primarily a mobile breakfast taco vending business by revenue, though we started as a catering company.
So bringing breakfast tacos to New Yorkers was what inspired you to start King David Tacos?
Yes, but also my dad was kind of the inspiration. When he came here I had him stay in Times Square — disgusting, I know. But he came and was like, "you need to sell breakfast tacos in Times Square." And I was like no way, I’m not going to be a Sabrett man! Because at that time, food carts weren’t really a popular thing. But it kind of stuck with me. [And] the thing with my dad is, he had what we now know was Lewy body dementia, from 2006 until 2016. So seeing his — not to be dramatic about it — but seeing his future stolen from him made me be like OK, if there’s something I feel like is unfinished and I see the opportunity to do, I need to do it.
Your dad is the inspiration behind the name for that reason, right?
Yes, my dad’s name was David. His friends called him King David because he was big and jovial and boisterous. So when I was in advertising and even just daydreaming about starting this I always had the name. And it’s meant to be a little bit ambiguous, because it’s obviously biblical. I am Jewish but also notice that I’m serving two pork products, so it’s not like we’re a religious organization.
Why did you decide to make your business a food cart rather than a restaurant?
I think especially for breakfast you can’t ask people to interrupt their morning routines to go sit and wait to get a breakfast taco. I knew that if I was going to try to achieve the kind of volume I needed, I had to go mobile. And mobile is kind of a misnomer because we’re not really mobile. We have permanent cart locations, and we cook the tacos every morning in a commissary kitchen in Industry City.
How many tacos on average do you think you sell a day?
It’s a large range. We go from selling like 75 tacos on a Monday at Prospect [Park] to 1,000 on a Saturday. And then Wall Street is in the several hundreds, but never 1,000 like Prospect. You have one day that kind of carries it.
Where do you get your ingredients?
The tortillas we ship from Texas — the land of the flour tortillas. I couldn’t find anything comparable here. But everything else we get here. For a while I couldn’t find some of the spices I needed but I’ve finally scoured enough of New York. It was difficult to find even the right grate of cheese, and the right tomatoes, because everything leans Italian here.
What’s your favorite taco that you make and what’s the most popular taco you sell?
Right now I’m really feeling the Mom’s Migas. But if I had to go with a taco for the rest of my life, the BPEC [bacon, potato, egg and cheese] would be mine. The best-selling taco is our Queen Bean, just by volume. The refried beans sell really well. They’re vegetarian, which makes them accessible to a lot of people. Prospect Park carries the Queen Bean for sure — it’s a much more veggie-leaning crowd. It’s different on Wall Street, People come up to the cart finishing a cigarette and pay in $100 bills and order all the meat tacos. That’s why they’re the yin and the yang. They work well together.
What are your dreams for the future? New kinds of tacos, more carts?
I don’t know about more carts, I think that the regulations in New York make it really difficult to expand in that way. Every employee has to be licensed, so it takes a special kind of person to want to go through that four-week minimum process. It’s a lot of red tape. But we definitely want more locations in the city. And then the ultimate goal is to expand to other cities that don’t have breakfast tacos.
How much does it bother you when people call them breakfast burritos?
Less and less every day. It still makes me be like, “OMG it’s not a burrito!” But I get texts and emails that are like, “we love your burritos” and I’m like, you know what, it’s fine. If you love them, call them burritos. You’ll figure it out one day.