Dreams became a reality for one area business owner this week with the opening of Downtown Washington’s newest food spot, Streetside Tacos.
Antonio Avila said the rebranded taco shop’s move to the Washington Riverfront has felt like completion of a dream he had four years ago.
Avila, a second-generation Mexican American, grew up in a crime and drug infested area of Los Angeles, Calif. Almost 10 years ago, he said he clawed his way out of that environment and moved to Missouri.
In the years that followed, Avila, with the help of his family, opened up a popular taco restaurant on Jefferson Street. The eatery, named Tacolicious, aimed to serve something Avila said he had grown to miss while working and living in Missouri, southern California-style tacos.
Avila said once the restaurant opened up, business started to grow and never stopped.
“People took to it,” he said. “That’s what I missed a lot, street tacos. And when we introduced them, people really saw that the freshness on top of the taco was really different and it’s just taken off.”
For four years Avila and his family worked out of the small “hole in the wall” taco shop. They worked in a cramped kitchen that was hotter than 100 degrees in the summer and served a loyal clientele with limited seating.
That was until Avila had a conversation with local business owner Rick Marquart, who owns The Landing, about taking the eatery to the next level.
Avila, partnering with Rick and Karen Marquart and Sean Bell, plotted the move and rebranding of Tacolicious. The new restaurant would move into a newly renovated Langenberg Hat Building in Downtown Washington, feature a brand new kitchen and have expanded seating areas.
The new location is a big moment for Avila and his family. He said bringing the taco shop to the riverfront will be the realization of what he dreamt his restaurant would become.
Streetside Tacos completed its move to its new location at 330 W. Front St. this week and opened up for business. To say the new location is a step up from Avilla’s former location would be an understatement.
The totally renovated location, which features views of the Missouri River and the Washington riverfront, has an outdoor patio and a new homemade salsa and chip bar. The eatery was decorated by local artist Kim Alsop in southern California style.
The new location will work just like Tacolicious did, and feature an almost identical, but redesigned menu, featuring a variety of southern California-style Mexican American dishes, with an emphasis on tacos, of course.
“It’s still the good quality food we served at Tacolicious,” Avila said.
Even more so at the new location, Avila noted, customers will be able to see their food prepared right in front of their eyes.
“All of our ingredients are cut fresh in front of you, made in front of you. I don’t understand the concept of putting the kitchen behind the wall,” he said. “Let everyone see what you’re doing and see that you’re doing it the right way.”
He added that everything that can be homemade, is made in house, including taco shells, salsas and marinades. Other menu items will include empanadas, quesadillas and enchiladas.
There also will be a variety of salsas from mild to spicy, all handmade, with various ingredients such as jalapeno, cerano, dried chilies and others.
Streetside features southern California classics, like nacho fries and SOCO style fish tacos.
Avila said the eatery also will feature weekly and daily specials and will offers beer, wine and margaritas, something the old location didn’t have. He added that in the future, he hopes to keep the shop open till 2 a.m., so people leaving bars Downtown can grab a bite to eat.
For now, Avila is ready to serve great tacos in Downtown Washington. But he always keeps an eye on the future, and the past.
“I would sit there cut and prep at my old job and think I could be doing this for myself,” Avila said. “And now, who knows what this could lead to. We could be the taco kings of the Midwest.”