UPDATE: Tacobar is now open.
By Chris Barnett
Locals have been clamoring for better and more authentic Mexican food on Fillmore Street even before La Posada said adios a few years ago and the fast food chain La Salsa shuttered its shop at the end of last year.
They may soon get their wish.
Tacobar, at the corner of California and Fillmore, seems destined to be far more than a typical taqueria. Owner and top toque Jack Schwartz, 40, has fashioned a mini-Mexican restaurant with organic food considerably above the ordinary and a whimsical design that promises to be lively and fun. Just check out the handpainted mural on the ceiling of el bano, the unisex bathroom.
The Tacobar menu has the predictable categories: quesadillas, tacos, burritos, salads, soups, sides and desserts. But Schwartz promises that the ingredients will be fresh, flavorful, imaginative and pesticide-free. And the prices are surprisingly reasonable.
Schwartz lives in the neighborhood, which has helped to elevate his aspirations. “I’m trying to do simple but good quality food at reasonable prices because we want to be part of the neighborhood,” he says. “We believe the more you give, the more you get back.”
Born in Mexico City to a Romanian dad and a Colombian mom, Schwartz has packed plenty of surprises into the 900-square-foot spot on a key corner at the heart of the neighborhood. In recent years it was home to La Salsa. But for decades it was the Rolling Pin donut shop, open all day and all night, and before that the Donut Hole.
An advance look at the menu is promising. A diner might start with the jicama ensalada with grapefruit, dry roasted peanuts, diced avocado and cilantro for $4.50; then a Veracruz pescado taco — with grilled line-caught mahi mahi, cabbage slaw and Baja lime sauce, $4.50; topped off with a potent tequila ice cream homemade by San Franciscan Neveria Abel, $3.50. In addition to Mexican beers and sodas, Tacobar will serve a citrus red wine sangria, plus fresh lime margaritas and fresh lime pomegranate margaritas made by Soju, a South Korean company.
Fillmore is festooned these days with outdoor seating and Tacobar will go al fresco as well. It will also offer takeout.
Schwartz, a 1998 graduate of the California Culinary Academy, later cooked at Maya in San Francisco and was sous chef and consultant for 1550 Hyde Cafe and Wine Bar. He knows design is a critical component, even in a tiny taco emporium. So he hired Lauren Geremia and Rusty Wadatz, partners in Geremia Design in San Francisco, and gave them relatively free rein. The firm also designed Fraiche, the yogurt store at 1910 Fillmore.
The designers squeezed extra space out of the small spot, installing a communal table, a long bar for solo seating, several tables with chairs and an energizing color scheme. The plain wooden stools are a vibrant Mexican pink, bright yellow and lime green. The tiled walls are straight from Mexico. An accordion-like panoramic decal of endless cornfields cover the windows, but diners inside can look out. And a collection of cacti are scattered around the room.
Filed under: Food & Drink