Sept. 22, 2017
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If Bert’s Burger Bowl has to be gone, at least we get tacos out of it.
Anson Stevens-Bollen

The F in Fundación

Tacos, tacos everywhere ...

May 3, 2017, 12:00 am

Almost Exactly two years ago—you’d be forgiven if you can’t recall the pre-2016 election years at this point, since garbage fires tend to envelop everything in smoke—Bert’s Burger Bowl closed after 61 years, and Santa Fe mourned. That final day, the line stretched out the door and down the block. It was a wonderful outpouring of the emotional connection we have to food. Within months, Shake Foundation owner Brian Knox announced that he would be taking over the location at 235 N Guadalupe St. for a planned taco restaurant. People were optimistic; Knox has a 30-plus-year career in restaurants and Shake Foundation has been a hit since opening in 2014.

And then not much happened. Until last Monday, that is, when finally, Taco Fundación opened its doors.

That first day they sold out quickly. And the second day. And the third. I stopped by on a Thursday, making sure to get there before their noon opening time and there were already three people waiting in line.

Knox hasn’t done much to the appearance of the space. Like Bert’s (and, as it were, like Shake Foundation), it’s a walk-up counter with no seating inside. The patio has small shelves to put your food on and a large picnic table stretches out front. Even the sign for the restaurant recalls the old Bert’s one in its simple typography. Knox understands the nostalgia of the space.

For opening week, the menu features eight simple à la carte options with a promise of more to come. Restaurants take time to find their groove, and I like that they nod to this evolution from the start.

I picked three tacos from the menu: the al pastor ($3) features pork with pineapple and onion; the chicken mole ($3.25) was being raved about in the comments sections on Facebook; and finally one of the three (!) veggie options, the verduras 1 ($3) with sweet potato, kale, pine nuts and cotija. Taco Fundación also serves up verduras 2 with potatoes, avocado and cotija as well as verduras 3 with Oaxacan cheese, portabella mushrooms, onions and cilantro sauce.

The Shake Foundation model has been brought to this new venture: You order, then get your drink and a little buzzer and you wait for the goods. There is a simple water station set up with napkins and bottles of pepper and tomatillo sauce. I went outside and sat at the long picnic table.

The first thing to note is that the buzzers weren’t working. Each had a number on the bottom and they call them out. This seems like something to explain to customers (and apparently, they’re working now). I realized this after a few minutes had passed and I saw people who had ordered after me leaving with food. Once I was back inside Knox immediately made an announcement that they were not taking any more orders due to a delivery issue with their tortillas. They had been open 15 minutes.

When I asked about my order I was told they were waiting on one taco. With no more information given, I can only assume that the filling wasn’t ready. I watched as most of the 15 or so customers who ordered after me got their food and left.

I waited close to 30 minutes for my three tacos. Now, I realize that kinks will kink, but 30 minutes for three tacos is a little unreasonable. This, coupled with their stock issues, makes me wonder if, even after two years of work, the place was actually ready to open.

Yet, the tacos were great. The pork was a little bland and needed a bit more pineapple to balance the onion flavor, but it was cooked perfectly. The chicken mole had sesame seeds for texture and a little crema and was great as well. Both needed a bit of pepper sauce to make them pop, though, and I found myself thinking of other restaurants’ variations on these options. The item that surprised me was the verduras; the potatoes were creamy, their earthy sweetness paired well with the garlic-sauteed kale and pine nuts. The tastes were balanced and strong and didn’t need any extra help getting their point across. That taco didn’t make me think of anything other than how good it was.

Taco Fundación has a built-in market. Its downtown location means they’ll have a large lunch crowd, and many fans of Shake Foundation will give it a shot. It has had an instant line at open every day this week and they have sold out each day as well. This is a testament to the need for a reasonable lunch spot down there, and to people’s trust in Knox. But they have yet to be open their full hours (noon- 6 pm) or to provide fast service. You could see the frustration on Knox’s face when he announced that they were not going to be able to serve because the delivery hadn’t arrived. And I felt for him greatly.

Give the place a try. The tacos are good. But you can get good tacos at so many places in Santa Fe that I can’t honestly recommend it over any of the others. I’d also suggest waiting a few weeks for the kinks to work themselves out. If Knox can get up to speed, he’ll have a place as beloved as the one he’s replacing.


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