Every Tuesday and Saturday, the intoxicating smell of brisket barbacoa, green chili chicken, and other mouthwatering marinated meats waft down McKinley Street in southern Scottsdale.
This twice-weekly tradition has taken over the southern Scottsdale neighborhood since June, when chef Mike Winneker began grilling, assembling and selling tacos, quesadillas and other side dishes from his driveway.
“The first month I did it, I was doing 30-plus orders, and I was doing it twice a day. It was great,” Winneker said.
After nearly three years as Chef de Cuisine at Artizen Crafted American Kitchen & Bar at the Camby in Phoenix, Winneker was furloughed in March due to the pandemic.
So, to support himself and his family, he downloaded the Nextdoor app on his phone and posted an ad for barbacoa tacos.
It became a hit.
Over about two weeks, Winneker amassed enough orders to move forward with his driveway taco get-up.
Now, he averages anywhere from 20 to 40 tacos a day.
“A lot of people want to help support me,” Winneker said of his success. “They feel bad, and they want the restaurant industry do well. And for people like me, I’m at the mercy of the virus.”
Every week, Winneker posts a new menu to his Instagram account, @mikevinegar.
Those interested in placing an order must then email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and pick up their order from Winneker’s driveway – which is easy to spot: it’s the one with a Cadillac.
Payment is made either via Venmo or cash.
Tacos are $5 each and come with guajillo chili hot sauce, cucumber, radish, and key limes; quesadillas are $12 each; and ranchero beans are $4 a serving.
Winneker also slings desserts, like marshmallow cereal bars, banana bread, and even cupcakes for a customer who was hosting a gender reveal party.
“It changes all the time,” he said of his menu, adding, “and sometimes I do Sonoran hot dogs.”
Winneker has seemingly made every kind of taco imaginable: vegan tacos, fish tacos made with fresh fish from Scottsdale’s Chula Seafood, mesquite smoked chicken tacos with grilled pineapple, pork chorizo tacos, and the list goes on.
And what sets Winneker’s tacos apart is his use of high-quality meats, like Niman Ranch beef and pork.
Winneker recently served up juicy green chili chicken tacos.
“It’s a combination of leg and thigh meat,” he described. “It’s roasted hatch chiles, onions, garlic, tomatillo, cilantro, Mexican oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice, and chicken stock.”
His customers include neighbors just down the street to taco lovers commuting from Glendale.
“I order from him every Saturday,” said Alex Neville, who was waiting for his order.
Neville, who lives near Tatum and Shea, heard about Winneker’s tacos through a mutual friend and has been driving the 25-minute route every week for about three months.
Neville, who also works in the restaurant industry and was furloughed, joked, “I met him through tacos and I’ve been hooked.”
While Winneker admits business has slowed since restaurants were given the green light to reopen at limited capacity, he still plans to sell tacos on a weekly basis indefinitely.
“Even if I go back to work, I plan to still do this on the side,” Winneker said.
He even has plans to possibly add seating in his front yard now that the temperatures are dropping.
But Winneker’s bigger and more long-term plan is to open a delivery-based taco shop.
“The main concept would be ‘Taco Addicts,’” Winneker writes in the description for his GoFundMe fundraiser, “Taco Addicts! A delivery-based taco shop.”
Taco Addicts would specialize in “regional Mexican and Sonora specialties in the form of tacos. Utilizing meats that have been kissed with Mesquite and Pecan smoke, lending it to the indigenous flavors of Arizona.”
Winneker’s GoFundMe has a $20,000 goal to help pay for the cloud kitchen lease down payment, licensing, equipment and more.
“I’ve been an executive chef at three different properties, but it’s always been my dream to run my own operation from the ground up, the way I want to,” writes Winneker, who has also worked at Cowboy Ciao and Flourish at CopperWynd Resort in Fountain Hills.
“It has been exciting making tacos for my neighborhood, and I do not want it to end,” he continued. “At the end of the day, this is what I have to offer the world. Please allow me the opportunity to satisfy not only my desire, but also the hunger and cravings of my home.”
Information: @mikevinegar on Instagram, gofundme.com/f/taco-addicts-a-delivery-based-taco-shop