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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2023

Tac(o) of the town: Long-awaited taqueria opens at Stone Mill

<span class="photocreditinline">MELANIE CHOW</span><br />The Mad Taco’s menu in Middlebury includes a wide variety of tacos with generous helpings of cilantro.
The Mad Taco’s menu in Middlebury includes a wide variety of tacos with generous helpings of cilantro.

The Mad Taco and other retailers were welcomed to Middlebury by a large and hungry crowd last Saturday at the Stone Mill’s soft opening, which showcased the multi-purpose space’s new cast of restaurants and retailers. Middlebury residents and college students alike headed down to Mill Street for the Vermont taqueria’s much anticipated opening. By 5:30 p.m., the restaurant was abuzz with activity. 

While there has been a lot of commotion around the arrival of The Mad Taco, the restaurant is just one of the new tenants of the new Stone Mill complex. The Stone Mill, formerly owned by Middlebury College, was bought by Mary Cullinane and Stacey Rainey of Community Barn Ventures in January of this year. The two transformed the building into a multipurpose space that now features The Mad Taco, The Arcadian To-Go, Dedalus Wine Shop, the interior designer Slate Home, Lost Monarch Coffee, a coworking space and Airbnb units.

The Mad Taco is located on the bottom floor, which used to house Storm Café. One of the employees at The Mad Taco, Nate Davis, said that there were moments when they were not sure the restaurant would be ready for the soft opening, as the space is not completely finished. After a few more finishing touches are put in place, The Mad Taco hopes to hold a grand opening on a to-be-announced date in the near future. 

“We want to have a place for everybody to have fun,” Davis said. He said that the opening was successful, even with very little media promotion. 

Diners enjoyed the soft opening of The Mad Taco on the terrace of the Stone Mill.

The menu at Middlebury’s Mad Taco is the same as the one featured at the taqueria’s original Waitsfield location. A variety of chicken, pork, beef and vegetable tacos are available, including smoked pork belly, a favorite of the Saturday crowd. The tacos are served on a double wrapped soft shell and are generously stuffed. A wide selection of burritos, fajitas and sandwiches are also available, alongside an impressive collection of homemade hot sauces, ranging from mild to very hot, as well as a full bar stocked with lots of Vermont IPAs.  

Davis explained that Cullinane and Rainey approached The Mad Taco during the planning stages of the project about the possibility of being part of the complex. The two had been big fans of the location in Waitsfield, Vt. 

On the ground floor of the Stone Mill, Cullinane and Rainey were manning the register at the Public Market, a collection of small stands representing various local businesses. The featured stores include Slate Home, which sells a range of homegoods from soap to coasters to kitchen supplies. The Slate Home team designed its own space to have a modern and slightly industrial feel. 

The Vermont Book Shop and Dedalus Wine Shop also have stalls at Public Market. Dedalus Wine Shop was in the middle of a tasting on Saturday evening, an event which will occur regularly, according to Rainey. Lost Monarch Coffee is also a part of the market, with a seating area to grab a coffee and pastry. 

The market also features a stall curated by Cullinane and Rainey called the Stone Mill Collective, which showcases the entrepreneurial ventures of Middlebury students and alumni.

When speaking about their goals for the space, Rainey and Cullinane said that they wanted to provide a multipurpose space where visitors can “grab a present, get a coffee, and head to work upstairs.”

“I really wanted to dive into the community and provide another spot for people to gather,” Rainey said. She and Cullinane have lived in Middlebury and been business partners for several years. 

The opening welcomed a wide range of people from the Midd community, including students, families and retirees. When asked about what demographics she had hoped to see, Rainey said that she was thrilled with the variety of customers who came through the market on Saturday. “That’s the special part,” she said. “There’s been a lot of students who’ve been through the building. Families, some older retired folks, tourists. It’s been across the board, which is what we wanted.” 

The Mad Taco is open from 11am to 9pm daily, serves tacos, burritos and other house specialties. They host a full bar that features local beers and ciders, as well as spirits and cocktails.

Rainey is also excited to bring more Vermont businesses to Middlebury.  

“While it would be costly to have a full store up on Main Street, having a stall here gives these businesses an opportunity to test the market and expand their platform.”

The Public Market is now open Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The Mad Taco is open daily from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m., and will  close on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and July 4.