The final details are mostly complete.
The sign is up on the window of what used to be Toast on Market.
So, Gabe Sowder, former chef de cuisine at 610 Magnolia, is vowing Taco Punk will be hosting a soft opening by the second week of January on its way to a grand opening by the end of next month.
Opening Taco Punk in NuLu has been in the works for months. But the project was delayed because the restaurant Taco Punk is replacing at 736 E. Market St. had its own problems.
Toast on Market was supposed to move to the former White Oak/Artemisia space a block west at 620 E. Market, but got hung up.
So instead of taking over the Toast space in September as he’d hoped, Sowder didn’t have a lease until December 1: ”It was delay, delay, delay. (Toast owners) just had disastrous luck on their build out.”
“I’ve just been sitting around, waiting.”
The good news is, all the Taco Punk equipment is in place and all the Toast systems are being upgraded including the plumbing.
Sowder has the payroll set up, suppliers in place and the point-of-sales system programmed.
Moreover, getting Taco Punk open doesn’t mean a complete renovation. “We’re not tearing anything up,” Sowder said. “We might run into a glitch, but the toughest things are done.”
That included getting a Metropolitan Sewer District permit for a grease trap, which Sowder and other restaurateurs have told us is now a major undertaking.
Sowder said he was lucky to find a $5,000 system, rather than $12,000 to $15,000 quotes he got from various contractors. “But to install (the new system,) we had to trench the floor … just crazy stuff!”
With time to kill, Sowder said, he and wife Dana Andriot and their friend and architecture consultant Ted Bressoud have come up ideas about tranforming what had been Toast’s “cavernous,” noisy room into a space with better lighting and ambiance. “An eye-popping design,” is the way Sowder puts it.
“When people go in, they’re going to see a completely new restaurant. Their heads are going to spin and they’re going to say, ‘Whoa!‘ ”
What hasn’t changed is the Taco Punk price range.
Though Sowder said he used some of the time to revise he menu, “taking some things off, adding others,” prices will still be under $14.
Yucatecan-style fish tacos will be the most expensive offering at $12.95. The Punk Platter will have two tacos, chips and the salsa bar for between $8.95 and $12.95, depending on how you want it.
“This will be a place where you can get a plate of food for $10,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 question we were getting from everyone: ‘Will we be able to eat there for under $10?’ ”
(See the full Taco Punk menu here.)
Taco Punk will have wines from Spain and South America, a house sangria and beer including local craft brews.
Getting open has been a trial, Sowder said. But it also showed him how much of sense of community there is in the relatively new NuLu restaurant hub.
Wiltshire on Market owner Susan Hershberg let him use her facilities at 636 E. Market for his food truck operation until he could move into the 736 E. Market space.
“I’ve known (Harvest owner) Ivo Chadkowski forever. Everyone is friends.
“NuLu is positioned to be the most exciting place between here and Nashville. Everyone is on the same page.”