Photos by Anna Routh Barzin
Just over a year after opening his uberpopular Lawrence Barbecue at Boxyard RTP, Jake Wood (who previously helmed Plates Neighborhood Kitchen as executive chef) has announced his second restaurant (!).
An ode to the smoked brisket birria tacos that nearly broke the internet whenever Wood announced they were on the menu on Lawrence’s Instagram (and brought in throngs of people eager to get their hands on one, though usually sold out after only a couple of hours and thus “got out of hand,” says Wood), Leroy’s Tacos n Beer—anticipated to open in January 2023—will be situated just two doors down from the hip Q spot, and underneath his other Lawrence Food Co. Hospitality Group concept, Lagoon Bar. A taco and BBQ (and cocktail!) down the road at Boxyard? Um, sold.
In addition to Wood’s famed birria tacos—which he conceptualized using three or four different recipes from different regions in Mexico—Leroy’s small rotating menu will feature fun seasonal dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Expect chimichurri fried rice, roasty poblano cheese dip with fresh fried tortilla chips, segmented grapefruit and avocado salad, and “a really fun corn dog that’s kind of like street corn, except the vessel’s gonna be a corn dog as opposed to an ear of corn,” says Wood.
NC shrimp tacos and carne asada skirt steak tacos will be on the feature board more often than not, he adds, and the food will be complemented by a rotating selection of canned Mexican beers like Imperial, Pacifico, Tecate and Modelo—plus over-the-top micheladas, natch.
“We’re not trying to overthink it; we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel with tacos—clearly I’m a white dude,” says Wood. “There are folks within 5 miles of us cooking amazing tacos. We just wanna join; we’re not trying to compete with anybody. I just f*cking love tacos, and I wanna make them. I want folks to be able to come and get the birria tacos and not have to wait in line 30 minutes to be told it’s sold out.” (If it’s happened to you, you know how soul-crushing it is.)
While Wood says expansion this soon after launching Lawrence wasn’t originally in the cards for him or his team, the opportunity to open a new spot at the former Carrburritos space was just too good to pass up. “It just made so much sense that we could expand our footprint there at Boxyard,” he explains. “They’re great folks to work with. We’ve had success since we’ve opened out there, and we just wanna build on that there with a lower overhead entry point.”
NTM that the area is only going to continue to grow, what with the new Hub RTP project, an Apple campus coming, and talks of Google and Nike as well. “We’d like to be there and grow as RTP grows,” says Wood. “I feel like it’s kind of RTP’s time to shine over the next five, six, 10 years—whatever it may be as they grow in that area. Looking back, I think we made the right decision by coming out there and taking a chance with Lawrence.” Those birria tacos surely seemed to prove that.
And, don’t worry, the signature Lawrence Barbecue fun energy and fun-loving vibe we all know and love will come through at Leroy’s as well with the help of local creatives: Casey Robertson (who helped Wood with branding), designer and art director Paul Tuorto, sign painter and designer Joseph Giampino (you may know him as @spclsigns), and fabricator Brian Chiarizia of Rebuild Fabrication Co. “I’m really stoked about the branding and what these guys are gonna be potentially doing to the space,” says Wood. “We’re really just trying to make it a lifestyle brand, as opposed to a simple taco shop or BBQ shop.”
He adds: “We’re staying in this fun vein that we’re in with Lawrence. We’re not taking anything too seriously other than the food, and just really staying hyperfocused on that. I’m looking forward to it. I love making tacos—I could stand over a flat top and fold birria tacos for 12 hours straight. It’s just fun.” So, in the words of Wood, “Come on over, eff around, and find out.”