Owner of Dubuque Sonic confirms plans to open taco restaurant

An up-and-coming restaurant chain known for its wide selection of tacos is coming to Dubuque.

East Dubuque, Ill., resident Luke Flatin confirmed that he plans to open a Rusty Taco restaurant in the early summer. The eatery would fill a vacant storefront attached to Natural Grocers, located at 3333 Asbury Road.

“We are shooting for the middle of June or July to open,” said Flatin. “You never know exactly how things are going to go with the (buildout), but we are hoping it goes quickly.”

He said the last details of a lease agreement are being finalized and characterized the project as virtually “set in stone.”

City of Dubuque Planning Services Manager Wally Wernimont confirmed that city officials have received a site layout plan and building rendering for the project.

Flatin already has established a presence in the local restaurant scene. He is the owner of the Sonic restaurant at 2560 Dodge St., which opened in December.

Rusty Taco — named after founder Rusty Fenton — has experienced quick growth since opening its first location in Dallas in 2010. It now boasts more than 30 restaurants nationwide, many of which are concentrated in the Midwest and Southwest.

A menu posted on the chain’s website lists a wide selection of street tacos and breakfast tacos, as well as multiple varieties of nachos and desserts, including churros and sopapilla. Rusty Taco locations also are known for their margaritas and diverse selection of beers.

In January, Flatin took ownership of an existing Rusty Taco location in West Des Moines. At the time, he announced that he planned to open new ones in Dubuque and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Dubuque is now included on the chain’s map of U.S. restaurant locations, with a note that the eatery is “coming soon.”

Flatin is confident the eatery will be a hit among residents.

“Rusty Taco is known for fresh-prepared street tacos, house-made margaritas and sauces that are made from scratch,” Flatin said. “It is some of the best authentic, street-style food I have ever had.”

He said the Dubuque Rusty Taco will feature outdoor patio seating and a full bar. He anticipates the restaurant will employ about 50 people.

The opening of Rusty Taco would represent another positive development for the sizable building at 3333 Asbury Road, which served as the home to Tri-State Independent Blind Society from 1988 through 2018. It was subdivided into three spaces after Tri-State Blind departed.

Colorado-based grocery chain Natural Grocers moved into the largest portion of that building in November 2018.

Flatin said he will open Rusty Taco in the vacant, adjoining space north of Natural Grocers, near Asbury Road. The space to the south of the store remains unfilled, Flatin said.