Taquerias are among the fastest growing restaurant concepts in the U.S. Accomplished restaurateurs Jayson Munoz and Dr. Mark Logan are up to the task with bringing that experience to Evansville.
In 2012, Munoz, the owner of Kanpai Sushi & Asian Bistro, and Logan, an ear, nose, and throat physician in Evansville, formed a strong friendship from a shared passion of destination dining. In fall of 2012, Logan traveled to the Libertine Bar in Dallas, a relaxed gastropub known for its sophisticated bar setting, and it inspired their joint creation of Commonwealth Kitchen + Bar, which opened in January 2013 in Henderson, Kentucky.
The success of CKB spurred another idea from the partners in early 2014. Munoz consistently traveled to Nashville and Louisville tasting and trying local taquerias, which is a Spanish word for taco shop.
“We try to bring something to the community that isn’t already here,” says Logan. “When we opened CKB, there wasn’t a gastropub, there wasn’t a restaurant doing small plates, and along those same lines, we were trying to think of if we were going to expand, what would we offer to the community? There are a lot of places serving tacos, such as Taco Bell or Taco John’s, but those aren’t the places we’re driving to Nashville for. The taco is the vehicle.”
On June 18, Munoz and Logan opened City Taco, a gourmet taco restaurant, at 2403 Washington Ave., at the corner of Washington and Boeke, in the Ross Center.
“People walk through the door, and they ask if it’s a Mexican restaurant,” says Munoz. “We are trying to bring a unique experience to Evansville as a gourmet taco restaurant with delicious sides.”
“You wouldn’t call our Chicken Pesto Taco a Mexican dish, because it’s Mediterranean. No one was really doing gourmet tacos in Evansville. That really is what sets us apart,” says Logan.
While the concept of a gourmet taco shop is still relatively new, City Taco has been refining its menu to hammer home the idea to those who frequent it. The restaurant has recently introduced new tacos such as the Breakfast Taco, made with chorizo, scrambled egg, potatoes, Chihuahua cheese, and green onions, and the Marinated Steak Taco, which has pickled red onions, cilantro, lime juice, cotija cheese, and salsa on a flour tortilla.
In the five months, Munoz says he has learned what’s a hit and what to replace with new additions. The restaurant bid farewell to the Barbacoa Taco and introduced the taco that has become its No. 1 seller — the Pow Pow Shrimp Taco. The Pow Pow Shrimp has breaded shrimp, green onions, shredded cabbage, layered with pow pow sauce on a flour tortilla, which is the same recipe used at Kanpai Sushi & Asian Bistro.
City Taco also introduced new additions to the starters, sides, dips, and desserts; each we tried was to-die-for-delicious. Patrons can enjoy two gourmet tacos, normally marked at $3.50 each, and a side priced at $2.95 for $8.95. Sides range from the new Queso Mac & Cheese to the Chorizo Chili, which is a no-bean chili, but with all the traditional Mexican flavors.
A popular new dip, the owners say, is the Seven Layer Dip, a blend of queso, black beans, chorizo, guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and Chihuahua and cotija cheeses. Blink and your table will have devoured it too soon. The inspiration for this addition came from El Taco Loco, a restaurant in Brighton, Colorado, the state Munoz is a native of. The dip originally had five layers and Munoz tasted and said, “I can do this, too.” City Taco also offers the Plain Ol’ Taco for those less adventurous in their tastes.
Every Tuesday, City Taco offers $2 Plain Ol’ Tacos and $2 Mexican beer. With its proximity to the University of Evansville, Munoz and Logan feel the fast and casual restaurant concept and the affordable prices strongly appeal to students.
“When talking with University of Evansville students, they felt they didn’t have ‘that’ college bar or hangout. They felt like they have been missing that in Evansville, and we want to fill that void,” says Munoz.
City Taco has a covered patio, indoor/outdoor space, and a party room with stadium seating and televisions perfect for watching sports or birthday parties. Hanging on the walls is a collection of pop art ranging from Warhol and Lichtenstein to street art by Banksy.
“We are a taqueria, but we do not really consider ourselves truly Mexican and so we did not want to have Mexican décor. We wanted some bright, visual interest that was new and different to the Tri-State,” says Logan.
The restaurant’s covered patio is perfect for a late night wine or beer for those leaving the office on a Friday night and not quite ready to go home. City Taco has five house wines available by glass and an excellent reserve wine list. Many of the reserves also come in splits or half bottles, so guests can enjoy great wine buying a half bottle at a time. The restaurant offers regular bottles and splits of finer wines such as Cakebread Chardonnay, Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Silver Oak Cabernet, and Clos du Val Cabernet.
“Even though we are a fast and casual restaurant, the wine list stands up against anyone in the Tri-State,” says Logan. “It is superb. We also would love to see people think of us on Friday and Saturday night as a place where they can sit on a patio and have a great bottle or half-bottle of wine.”
Location: 2403 Washington Ave.
Dining and Bar Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun.
Adult Beverages: Yes
Payment: All major credit cards accepted.