rusty tacoRusty Fenton, founder of Rusty Taco and co-founder of Uncle Julio’s, has died. The 53-year-old married father of four passed away Monday of kidney cancer.

Fenton began the Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican Food chain with the original restaurant on Greenville Avenue across from Moss Park in 1986. When he opened Rusty Taco on Greenville in 2010, many of his early hires were Lake Highlands High School seniors seeking after school and summer jobs to save for college. When I visited the new shop to do a write-up, I ran into a group of Wildcat sophomore boys being treated to lunch by their Young Life leader.

rusty fentonAlso while I was there, the manager showing me around surprised me by saying the restaurant got its name, not from the founder, but from their signature dish – the Rusty Taco, which appears rusty in color from the spices mixed with achiote pork and charred pineapple.  Since then, Rusty Taco expanded to 13 locations, primarily through franchising.

Russell Fenton leaves behind his wife, Denise, and daughters, Kara (22), Katie (20), Emma (17) and Ellie (11).