TAMPA — You might have Ryan Callahan's jersey, but what about his chicken BLT taco?
Tampa Bay Lightning fans who favor Mexican-style fare are in for a treat: the hockey team has teamed up with local-favorite Capital Tacos. Not only will Capital Tacos' top-rated eats be available inside Amalie Arena, but every month this season the shop will host a team member's taco creation on its menu.
"We take a lot of pride in being Tampa's homegrown taco," said Capital Tacos owner Josh Luger. "And we view it as our mission to bring Capital to anyone who asks for it."
Right now, Capital Tacos has five full restaurants across the Tampa Bay area. But the new stand in Amalie means the growing local food chain will be able to reach millions of new customers who come through the arena for NHL games and concerts each year.
Visitors to Amalie have been asking for tacos in surveys for awhile, according to Lightning CEO Steve Griggs.
"We are excited to continue elevating our offerings with another best-in-brand concession option to meet those needs," Griggs said in a statement. "Capital Tacos' mission to serve the community also aligns with the Lightning."
Starting Monday, visitors to Capital Taco's normal brick-and-mortar locations will be able to order "Cally's Chicken BLT." Part the profits from the chicken fajita, bacon and Pablano Ranch creation will go to the Ryan Callahan Foundation, which helps those affected by pediatric cancer.
Each month will feature a new player, taco and charity.
The menu at the concessions stand has special-to-Amalie items such as "Chips & Lightning Salsa" and the "Brisket Bolt" — all available as a taco, rice bowl or salad like in stores.
Bobby and Kristel Heskett opened Capital Tacos just five years ago as a sign-less stand in Land O' Lakes. In 2016, business partners Luger and James Marcus became owners and have been leading the chain's expansion. Now the shops are in Brandon, New Port Richey, Wesley Chapel and St. Petersburg.
They've been able to hunt down second-generation restaurant spaces — places that other restaurants have already failed — and turn them into a dining hotspot.
That strategy also means less up-front costs compared to a space in an already high trafficked, in-demand retail spot.
Luger says another St. Pete spot will open in the next few months.
But that just the beginning. The taco entrepreneur plans to at least double its current number of locations and expand across the state by the year 2020.
Contact Sara DiNatale at email@example.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.