By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
Get our mobile app
FREEPORT — A Rockford-based restaurant that celebrates “peace, love and tacos” is expanding into Freeport with its third brick-and-mortar location.
Olivo Taco has opened at 116 W. Douglas St., filling the space that was most recently Munchies Cereal & Shake Bar. It was also previously 312 Beef & Sausage, which is now at 1726 S West Ave.
Olivo will celebrate its grand opening in one week with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a chance for the community to sample its tacos and tamales at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16.
More restaurants: Beef-a-Roo expands with shipping container restaurants, including on coming to Freeport
Brothers Mahmud and Said Zatar started the business out of a food truck in 2019, and about a year later they opened their first brick-and-mortar location at 330 College Ave. in Rockford. In August 2021, they opened their second brick-and-mortar at 603 S. State St. in Belvidere.
They also have seven food trucks in Rockford, as well as trucks in Las Vegas and Arizona and one coming soon to Des Plaines.
“The key behind our business is staying consistent, keeping it simple and having a reasonable price,” Mahmud Zatar.
That includes sticking with their signature three tacos for $5 deal despite the pressures that have come with inflation. The brothers said that while the price is slightly higher at their out-of-state locations, they felt it was important to keep the prices low in and around their home town. Adding toppings to the tacos comes at extra cost, but the basic deal is still three for $5.
“The price of meat was going up (after the pandemic), but our goal was to try our best to stay consistent with our prices and the quality of the meat that we buy,” Mahmud Zatar said. “We stuck to our three for $5. We raised only the cheese and sour cream, where the prices were really high.”
Sticking with the price is appreciated by customers like Rosemary Algarin, a 15-year-old East High School student who stopped at the College Avenue location in Rockford last week.
“Three for five is amazing,” she said. “The tacos are so go. The steak is seasoned very well.”
Olivo Properties contracted with Talbert Properties in October to buy the Freeport restaurant, public records with the Stephenson County Recorder’s Office show. They had a soft opening last month in preparation for next week’s grand opening.
In the months before deciding to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, Olivo brought a food truck to Freeport.
“They had already started to build their brand familiarity within the community by having their taco truck here,” said Andrea Schultz Winter, the executive director of the Greater Freeport Partnership, which worked with the Zatars to help them move into their new space in Freeport.
Schultz Winter said the restaurant space, which is geared toward carryout with limited indoor seating, is fitting for Olivo Taco’s quick-service model.
“That model works well in that location,” she said. “It is a high-traffic commercial corridor; it has a lot of visibility. It’s conducive for a quick lunch or dinner.”
The restaurant serves steak, fish, chicken and veggie tacos as well as fiesta bowls with your choice of meat and tamales. Its produce is diced fresh every morning, and its sauces and seasonings are made in-house. The flavors are a fusion of Mexican, Latin and Middle Eastern cuisine.
The brothers, who are Palestinian and born in Puerto Rico, now call Rockford home. They both speak fluent Arabic, Spanish and English. They said the name Olivo stems from their parents, who owned land in Palestine with olive trees.
“Behind the name, olive oil means pure, and we want to do our best to be pure with whatever we’re doing,” Mahmud Zatar said.
Said and Mahmud said they have more plans for growth in the future, and they hope to see members of their team grow as well.
“The three-for-five concept, we also promote to our own team: We tell them to have a three-to-five year goal,” Mahmud Zatar said. “To grow the brand, to grow the way we are, we want to also see other people succeed through this business.”
Olivo Taco | Freeport grand opening
Where: 116 W. Douglas St., Freeport
Grand opening celebration: 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16
Daily hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday