Many Hilliard residents already have discovered a new restaurant owned by a former executive chef of Disney resorts.
Yabo's Tacos, 5242 Cemetery Road, opened Nov. 27 at Landmark Lofts.
"We didn't tell anyone," said Scott Boles, 59, the owner of the four Yabo's Tacos restaurants in central Ohio. "I try to do quiet openings and wait until we get our legs under us before doing some advertising."
Other than mailing invitations and $10 gift cards to the residents of Landmark Lofts, Boles said, he gave no advance notice, but residents had no trouble discovering it was open.
"Our first Friday, even without any signs, was the biggest of any of our other stores' first Fridays," he said.
The restaurant staff was surprised two days later, Boles said, when "a Friday crowd" descended Dec. 2, flowing in from the Hilliard Holiday Hop and tree-lighting ceremony at Hilliard's Station Park.
The storefront of Yabo's Tacos faces Franklin Street but it has a Cemetery Road address because Cemetery, one of Hilliard's arterial roads, is much better known than Franklin Street, said regional manager Peter Schell.
Franklin Street was not connected as a public road between Main Street and Cemetery Road until the completion of Landmark Lofts, a mixed-use development at the corner of Cemetery and Franklin that contains 204 apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space.
The path of Yabo's Tacos to Hilliard goes back six years, Boles said, when he received a call from the developer, John Royer, whose proposal came to fruition when Landmark Lofts was approved in 2013.
"He told me that he was doing something in Hilliard," Boles said.
Royer, who is president of Kohr Royer Griffith, said the first of Landmark Lofts' 204 apartments were leased in late March and it has a 90 percent occupancy rate.
"We are pleased with the occupancy rate and the retail tenants there so far," he said.
Though its front doors face Franklin Street, Yabo's Tacos has a patio that wraps around the side of the restaurant and has an end facing Cemetery Road.
"It's a unique feel for the Columbus area to have a patio 20 feet above the road," Royer said.
David Meadows, Hilliard's economic-development director, said Landmark Lofts has three commercial tenants: Yabo's Tacos, Daylight Donuts & Cafe and Renovo Fitness.
Meadows said the development has "several prospects" for additional tenants.
"We're looking at service uses that include a nail salon," Royer said.
Meanwhile, the first Yabo's Tacos opened in 2011 in Westerville and a second location followed in 2012 in Upper Arlington. Boles said he often was asked if he ever was going to open a site a Hilliard.
"I learned a lot of my customers in Upper Arlington lived in Hilliard," he said.
But a third location in Powell opened in 2014 before Boles could take advantage of the opportunity to open in Landmark Lofts.
As might be expected, Yabo's is a purveyor of tacos, but "we are not an authentic Mexican restaurant," Schell said.
He said the Yabo's restaurants have been criticized unfairly for that.
Boles said he describes the fare as "American stuff in a tortilla shell" and Yabo's offers "American ambiance with a Southwestern flair."
For example, one taco option is a Philly cheesesteak stuffed in a tortilla shell.
"We make good sandwiches, but without the bun," Boles said.
He said he also makes Cajun spices and other culinary contributions unique to Yabo's that are derived from his 36-year career in food services, a profession he had stepped back from until becoming inspired to found Yabo's.
Boles' culinary acumen became evident while in high school in Lima as he enrolled in home economics. His class was asked to make a dessert and while others resorted to angel-food cake, Boles presented a seven-layer Bavarian mocha torte, displaying what he had learned cooking and baking at home.
"I enrolled in the class because it would be an easy way for me to keep my grades up," Boles said, but it became a turning point in his life.
He chose to attend Northeastern University and other colleges, earning a degree in hotel-and-restaurant management while working in the kitchens of four- and five-star restaurants near Boston.
But it was his experience as a customer that inspired him to open Yabo's Tacos.
He said he and his wife, former Upper Arlington residents who now live in west Columbus in the Hilliard City Schools boundaries, were searching for a place to watch football games and other sporting events, but discovered few that offered banks of high-definition TVs and Mexican or Southwestern fare.
"I like tacos but not always set to mariachi music and only one TV showing a soccer game," Boles said.
Among the customers enjoying an NFL game and dinner last weekend were Michelle Buoni and her daughter, Elisa, who walked to Yabo's from their Norwich Street residence.
"I'm excited for restaurants and businesses like this that enhance our city and enjoy having places like this where residents can walk," Buoni said.