Owned by the same family since 1946, Gregory's Restau-rant and Bar in Somers Point was taken over by the next generation, brothers Walter and Greg Gregory on Jan. 1, 1979.
The brothers had big plans to put their own stamp on the place.
At the time, Greg Gregory was running the Newsstand restaurant in the high-end, Gallery at Market East mall at 10th and Market streets in Philadelphia.
Gregory would walk through the food court just to see who was busy.
"The taco stand had a line like you wouldn't believe, every day," Gregory says.
Gregory tried one and found them "absolutely aw-ful."
But everyone in line seemed to enjoy tacos.
That gave Gregory the idea to bring the possibility of serving tacos to one of his restaurant's "brain sessions."
Taco Bell had not yet established itself on the East Coast and Mexican ingredients were not widely available, so the Gregory brothers decided it was too risky to put the Mexican treat on the printed menu.
Instead, they opted to serve them only one night per week. Since Wednesday was "Drink and drown night" at Tony Mart's in Somers Point, the brothers wanted to have a night to beat them to the punch.
Thus, Taco Tuesday was born.
With few Mexican restaurants and not many Mexican workers in the area in the early 1980s, finding product was still a problem.
They found only soft flour tortillas at the local ShopRite, so the brothers turned them into hard shells in the kitchen.
"Our salsa recipe came from an old Playboy magazine that had an article on Mexican food that Walter dug up," Gregory says. "I don't know what he was doing looking at Playboy."
Things got off to a slow start.
"We sold 12 orders that night at three for $1," Gregory says.
People didn't know what tacos were at first, but after they sampled Gregory's tacos, the idea took off.
"It was going crazy," Gregory says.
In 1980, Jack Stellman, Gregory's public speaking professor from what was then called Atlantic Community College, insisted on helping the restaurant get a service mark for the phrase "Taco Tuesday" from the United States patent office.
"He did all the work, all the legwork, introducing us to the attorneys and got it going," Gregory says.
Hence the Taco Tuesday with an "R" in the circle. The rest is pretty much history.
"Now we sell 200 to 300 tacos a night on a Tuesday or Thursday night," Gregory says.
"We've been copied by a bunch of people, but it's not the same."
One of Gregory's favorite stories is when another local bar restaurant featured a big radio blitz advertising their Taco Tuesday specials. Gregory called the owner, an old friend, and explained that he had a service mark on the phrase.
His friend replied that he was stopping the promotion anyway, since it had brought him no business. Meanwhile, Gregory's had actually gotten busier since the competitor's ads had begun running. The Taco Tuesday name was already associated with Gregory's too strongly to compete.
Gregory says he still sees a few people who steal the idea once in a while. A letter explaining they need to call it something other than Taco Tuesday usually does the trick.
Gregory figures his restaurant has sold more than 2 million taco shells, used 350 gallons of Tabasco sauce in the recipe and emptied more than 1,400 cases of bottled tabasco sauce over the 36 years of Taco Tuesday.
Gregory's also offers taco-eating contests, with some scheduled for today, Sept. 23 and 27. Tabasco is sponsoring the contest with all kinds of prizes, posters and banners.
Tony Panichelli, the East Coast sales manager for the food service division of McIlhenny Tabasco, has a summer home in Somers Point.
Many famous people have stopped by for a taco over the years including professional athletes such as former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski and members of the New York Jets including Joe Klecko and others who came in when Greg Buttle, from Linwood, was on the team.
Gregory gave Buttle a license to run Taco Tuesday at his own nightclub in New York City.
As time went on, Tuesday became the night to go out, becoming so popular, the Gregory brothers decided to try tacos on Thursdays, too. The Gregorys had another hit on their hands.
When his son's high school friends began asking to come in for tacos, Gregory made them available in the dining room, rather than just in the bar.
Now, families come, too, knowing they can feed their kids something they love to eat and at a bargain price, $1.50 for two tacos.
"We've been cultivating customers for 35 years," Gregory says. "We've had people who ate here as kids, coming in with their own kids to eat tacos."
Today, Gregory describes Taco Tuesdays and Thursdays as nice fun nights where families and friends meet and greet.
"Our jukebox rocks," Gregory says. "And it's an inexpensive night that the people like."
Mexican beer specials abound on those two evenings, including Dos Equis with fresh lime, Corona and 7-ounce bottles of Sol. The room is decorated with Mexican flags and more.
"It's a fun, easy, breezy night," Gregory says. "Not a $150 dinner."
Blackened Mahi-Mahi Fish Tacos
•24 ounces Mahi-Mahi filet, cubed
•1 ounce Paul Prudhomme "Blackened redfish magic"
•2 1/2 ounces olive oil
•4 ounces rustic slaw
•8 corn tortillas, 5-inch
•12 ounces chipotle lime sauce with cilantro
•8 wedges lime
Toss raw fish in spice mixture. Saute in hot olive oil in medium saute pan until done.
•1/2 large white cabbage, sliced
•1 small red onion, sliced
•2 stalks celery, sliced
•1 green pepper, sliced
•4 ounces carrot, shredded
•1/2 cup olive oil
•1/4 cup white vinegar
•1/4 ounce celery seed
•Salt and pepper, to taste
Add all ingredients to bowl. Mix to combine. Taste for seasoning.
Chipotle Lime Sauce with Cilantro
•2 cups mayonnaise
•Juice of 1 lime
•1/2 ounce lemon juice
•1/2ounce chipotle powder
•1/2 ounce chili powder
•1 ounce blackening spice
•1/4 bunch cilantro
•1/2 ounce ancho chili powder
•1/2 clove garlic, chopped
•Pinch black pepper
Add all ingredients to bowl. Mix to combine. Taste for seasoning. (If too thick, adjust with a little water).
To construct taco:
Spoon 3 ounces of fish and some rustic slaw into taco shell. Top with chipotle sauce.