Last week, when I was blogging about The Restaurant‘s chef Donnie Masterton bringing Cinco de Mayo to Toronto, I wrote, “Should I be worried that the guy I consider the best chef in our little town…might want to spread his wings and head back to a big city for a little more fame and fortune.”
I obviously should have, because Chef Masterton is leaving us. Well sort of.
In the previous century, back around 1999 and for a few years after, I lived in Tony Bennett’s city by the sea and with a little help from those cable cars that climb halfway to the stars I would visit a restaurant called Azie. Out front, would often be a guy called Joe. And in the open kitchen would be a guy called Donnie. And I’ve never forgotten the oven-baked mussels on the iron skillet I would eat very slowly at the elevated bar.
In 2009, that front-of-the-house guy Joe, full name Joe Hargraves, opened a restaurant called Tacolicious that, despite its name sounding like an adjective from the Taco Bell dictionary, became a mega hit, so popular that there are now three Tacolicious locations in San Francisco and one in Palo Alto.
On the Tacolicious website, it says, “It took a trip to Mexico City – where the food is served in settings as sophisticated and urban as you’ll find anywhere in the world — for us to realize that tacos don’t have to be relegated to street food or a corner mom-’n’-pop.”
The chef at Tacolicious was a guy called Telmo Faria. Now, Faria, a native of the Azores, is moving on to open his own Portuguese restaurant and, though he’ll remain a business partner with Hargraves in the Tacolicious chain (and yes, I hate to use the word chain) there was a need for another executive chef.
That person is Donnie Masterton but, fear not, we’re not quite losing him to San Francisco and, in fact, this might be some of the best restaurant news that San Miguel de Allende has heard in a long time.
According to sf.eater.com, “As part of the new collaboration, Tacolicious will open a small restaurant, the Tacolicious Taco Lab, in San Miguel de Allende, with Masterton as executive chef; it’ll be the company’s first project outside of both the Bay Area and the U.S. Hargrave’s plan is to have quarterly confabs and tests with Masterton about new menu items, then bring him up to the Bay Area to help institute them at each of Tacolicious‘ locations. Masterton is already at work on developing new ceviches, gorditas, and panuchos for Tacolicious’ upcoming menus.”
I asked Donnie Masterton if he was opening a second restaurant and his answer was “yes” and though he didn’t give me an address, he told me he had a location “in Centro” and the targeted opening date is “before the end of the year”.
If you’ve ever eaten at Tacolicious in San Francisco, you may have fond memories of tacos made with guajillo braised short ribs of beef, Baja style Pacific cod, pollo in mole colorado, and filet mignon with caramelized onions. In San Miguel, Chef Masterton envisions a “smaller space, smaller menu but this is where we will test new ideas and dishes that will go on the menus in the States.”
He told me, “I’m really very excited about the project and to be working with Joe again. Something we have been talking about ever since we worked together in the late 90’s.”
I’ve met a lot of people in San Miguel de Allende who have a passion for casual Mexican cuisine but want it in a setting a little more upscale than the Tuesday market or a taco cart. They should be very excited about the project as well.
The Restaurant is located at Sollano #16 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The location of Tacolicious Taco Lab is TBA.