This story has been updated to reflect new information about the opening date.
If you’ve already laced up that Santa-faced bib in anticipation of El Taco Luchador’s planned December opening, then I hope you tied a slip knot.
Fernando Martinez, one of three owners in the business, says the opening of the 938 Baxter Ave. taqeuria will likely happen either Dec. 30 or Jan. 1, when the holiday hustle has started to subside.
When its doors swing wide, expect really affordable authentic tacos and tortas served alongside a range of fries, soft drinks and beer.
Martinez is tapping his veteran team to captain the small storefront, last home to Li’l Cheezers, which closed a few months ago. The end of the grilled cheese sandwich shop cleared the way for Martinez and his partners, wife Christina and cousin Yaniel, to assume the lease affordably and launch their third restaurant in two years.
The trio operates Guaca Mole and Mussel & Burger Bar.
“We weren’t even looking for it … but it was a deal we couldn’t say no to,” said Martinez, adding that a third-party investor led them to the opportunity.
“Li’l Cheezers had it leased through July next year, so that part made it easier. The deal came with a food truck also, so we’ll be doing that, too, by spring.”
Martinez said the space has just 24 seats inside, plus a similar number available on the front patio when weather permits. “This will be a very easy place to manage because of the size and the smaller menu,” Martinez said.
“I have one of my managers from Mussel & Burger coming to run the front of the house, and Diego Marcos, who’s cooked for me since Havana Rumba, will run the kitchen. He’s a Mexican, so he knows what he’s doing with tacos.”
Expect the usual taqueria standards such as made-to-order tacos with chorizo, lengua, chicken tinga, chicken molé, carne asada, carnitas and fish tacos.
That list is backed by a half dozen Mexican tortas, which are substantial sandwiches built from soft bolillo bread (imagine a soft, wide baguette) sliced and filled with many of the same proteins used in tacos, but with different garnishes and condiments.
Tacos will cost between $2 to $2.75 each, and tortas will run between $7 and $8 each. Sides will include Mexican corn on cob, mole fries and sweet potato fries, and cost between $3 and $3.50.
As far as beverages go, expect Pepsi products, and hopefully, beer, as soon as Martinez can get a beer license.
If you are wondering whether this will affect the opening of The Place Downstairs, the higher-end Latin-fusion restaurant in the basement of M&BB, Martinez said it will but only slightly.
Instead of the original mid-January target, he’s eyeing a February opening.
He’s hired Ethan Ray to be the chef de cuisine at The Place Downstairs. A veteran of Proof on Main, Ray most recently cooked at its sister restaurant, Metropole, in the 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati.
“I was planning to be the chef at The Place Downstairs, but with the taqueria, Mussel & Burger and Guca Mole, I’m going to be a little busy,” Martinez said sarcastically. “What I’ll do is open it with my menu, hand it to Ethan, and let him run it.”