Bradford McDevitt: Jam Cruise, Music and Super Heady Tacos
Bradford McDevitt on Jam Cruise, Music and Super Heady Tacos
There’s something about tacos that just goes so well with music festivals.
Maybe it’s the Fiesta-val in all of us. Maybe it’s the ease of a meal in one hand and a margarita in the other. Maybe it’s just that we all love tacos so freaking much.
Whatever the reason, there’s nothing like a festival taco, and when it comes to festival tacos, there’s nothing like a Super Heady Taco.
Super Heady Tacos have been enjoyed by festival lovers around the country, their neon light shining like a beacon in the night, guiding late-night music lovers to salvation and sustenance.
And this year, Super Heady Tacos was found in international waters, as part of the Jam Cruise “Chefs at Sea” program.
“Chefs at Sea” is designed to bring different chefs from around the country on board , each serving up a different flare to the ship’s late-night buffets.
Bradford spent the day working with the chefs and crew of the Norwegian Jade, prepping 2500 tacos for the ravenous late night Jam Cruisers. “[The ship’s chefs] were blown away,” says McDevitt. “They’ve never cooked chicken the way I cook chicken…they’ve never seen achiote seasoning. Their jaws dropped when they saw the amount of seasoning I put on the al pastor. They’d never even tried green chiles!”
As a festival chef, adapting to cooking on the boat was fairly easy. After all, at music festivals, McDevitt often has to prepare more tacos than this, and without the luxury of a cruise-liners prep kitchen space. Still, the reward for a job well-done is the same, as Bradford relates one of his favorite moments from Jam Cruise 17:
“There’s a point when you are getting ready for a huge event…and then there’s a sense of calm once you get everything going. Everyone’s eating, and the line starts to form and everyone’s getting their tacos and I’m starting to chat them up, and people are saying ‘Thank you.” That was awesome!”
As for the music, Bradford’s personal highlights included Andy Frasco, about whom he said: “They have to have a full-time doctor’s staff and a full-time janitorial staff following this guy at all times!” Bradford also was impressed with his first Jon Stickley Trio show, which he wandered into unwittingly. “We were in the atrium with Jon Stickley Trio, and we got to sit on the couch with our gin and tonics and watch this whole thing, and it was like, wow, this is awesome!”
As a chef and a lover of live music, it seems natural that Bradford McDevitt would run a food cart that frequents music festivals, but that’s not how it was planned.
McDevitt Taco Supply started as a single taco cart on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO in 2011. A few years later they expanded to second cart with a permanent residency at Sanitas Brewing Company. The taco carts also began to make appearances at other locations, and events like Kyle’s [Hollingsworth] Brew Fest started to show McDevitt the potential of adapting to music festivals. A friend advised him to try vending at Summer Camp Music Festival, and things progressed from there.
“The first Summer Camp, we sold out by Sunday morning. We had no idea what we were doing! The second year we did much better. Then we did a huge tour circuit where we did Coachella and Bonnaroo and Electric Forest, and put 6 hippies in a van, and none of them talk to each other now!”
From that, Super Heady Tacos was born to differentiate the Boulder-based McDevitt Taco Supply from his music festival operations.
After several successful festival seasons, however, Bradford reached a turning point in the growth of the business. He was faced with the choice of concentrating more on local festivals and growing his Boulder brand or taking it around the country and gambling on different festivals. “So I kind of scaled back a little bit, stuck with the ones that I knew we had a following at, and concentrated on Boulder.”
As necessity breeds invention, by 2017 McDevitt had outgrown the rented commissary kitchen he had been using for food prep for all of his taco carts, which now included a catering business as well. He first thought to build his own commissary kitchen with a taco window, but that idea was eventually reimagined. “If we’re going to do this, let’s invite people to come hang out with us and do fun things…and have killer margaritas, and all of that stuff”
In the fall of 2017, McDevitt Taco Supply opened its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Meadows shopping plaza on Baseline Road in South Boulder.
The popularity of McDevitt’s tacos, combined with a killer drink list and a great happy hour have made McDevitt Taco Supply a huge Boulder success. The restaurant and bar are often bumping, and weekly specials and themes keep customers entertained. Themes like “Michael McDonald Mondays” – they literally play every one of Michael McDonald’s hits from 5 till 9 PM – maintain the fun and party atmosphere that was originally cultivated in the taco carts at music festivals around the country.
But now, things have come full-circle for McDevitt.
“After scaling back festivals to grow Boulder, now Boulder is in a place where it is kind of running on autopilot, and I have enough staff so we can send more people back on the road.”
This summer, Super Heady Tacos will go on a 5-festival run, including Summer Camp, Camp Greensky and Sonic Bloom.
You will also find Bradford and Super Heady Tacos at the upcoming WinterWonderGrass festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. A winter music festival comes with its own set of challenges. Keeping onions from freezing, maintaining constant boiling water for hand washing, and useless zip ties are just a few of the issues when operating in extreme elements.
But Bradford is up to the challenge. “[WinterWonderGrass] is one of the best festivals out there! It’s awesome to have the challenge, it’s the change of pace…personally, we’re wearing ten layers of stuff, and we’re not sweating as much as a regular festival, but we’re staying hydrated with water and PBR, not necessarily in that order…so it’s a lot of fun.”
Along with getting back on the road in the music festival circuit, 2019 will also see exciting additions to McDevitt’s Boulder operations. McDevitt will be taking over the kitchen of the lounge at The Boulder Theater, so music lovers will be able to get their Super Heady Taco fix on while getting down in Boulder.
Here’s to the Super Heady future of McDevitt Taco Supply!
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