Philly food and drink scene

Why this new Spring Garden taco shop has its own brand of coffee

Heffe Tacos is betting big on breakfast.

Pork tacos at Heffe

Pork tacos at Heffe

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Updated April 3

There’s an unusual source for great coffee hiding on Spring Garden a couple blocks west of Broad: a taco shop.

Heffe Tacos, the Fishtown taqueria that values deliciousness over authenticity (viz. the purposeful misspelling of the Spanish word for “chief” in its name) opened its second outpost a couple weeks ago at 1543 Spring Garden St. In addition to an expanded regular lunch and dinner menu — designed by chef Peter McAndrews, who’s a partner in the business — the new spot has added a whole slate of breakfast offerings.

“That was lacking here,” said Heffe owner Anthony Lolio, who chose the location for his sophomore venture because his friend runs the successful City View Pizza next door. “There wasn’t anything open early in the morning. So we decided to do breakfast.”

And with breakfast, comes coffee, Lolio explained.

He consulted with several local roasteries, doing tastings and cuppings to test out their wares. When he found one he liked — Lolio is not saying which one — he worked with them to create a custom combination of organic beans, and Heffe’s Organic Mexican Blend was born.

Churros are fried to order at Heffe

Churros are fried to order at Heffe

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Branding for the coffee is on all of the new shop’s signage. Starting April 15, the blend will be available to purchase in bags to take home.

For now, the coffee is available by the cup, and it’s selling well.

It’s been eagerly snapped up by a clientele that Lolio describes as made of all kinds of people — residents from nearby condos, teachers at Masterman, staffers at CBS3, other office workers and students at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Crowds have been so thick at times — enough to fill the second floor dining room to capacity — that the kitchen has fallen slightly behind, something Lolio attributes to being new (doors opened March 22) and also to the touchscreen ordering system he had installed, which “takes orders so fast, the cooks can’t keep up!”

Kraken (fried octopus) tacos at Heffe

Kraken (fried octopus) tacos at Heffe

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Giving his kitchen time to work out a flow is one reason Lolio hasn’t rolled out his entire menu yet: a build-your-own bowl line will soon appear at the counter.

It will add to the regular slate of of tacos (do not miss the fried octopus “kraken”), burritos, stuffed quesadillas and the kitchen-sink-loaded waffle fries known as “Tijuanuana poutine.”

For breakfast — in addition to the Heffe coffee — include avocado toast, egg sandwiches, a breakfast burrito and bacon tostadas (see menu below).

Heffe Spring Garden breakfast menu

Heffe Spring Garden breakfast menu

Lolio doesn’t come from a restaurant background. He became friends with McAndrews at his popular (but now closed) BYOB Modo Mio.

“We were friends, so I went to talk with him when I found the first restaurant location,” Lolio remembered. “We discussed becoming partners. We had a few bottles of wine, and at some point in the night, someone — I don’t remember who — said ‘tacos that don’t suck!’ So that’s our tagline.”

As the custom line of coffee and the effort required to create it suggest, Lolio has big plans for the Heffe brand — he may eventually try to turn it into a franchise, he said.

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