Last Friday I gave my friend Nick Fasanella (yes, “that Nick” formerly of Nick’s Crispy Tacos and current owner of Underdogs in the Inner Richmond) a call to chat about his upcoming restaurant launch, Tacko, in the Marina. It was a sunny day in San Francisco and Nick was taking advantage of the good weather to captain his boat up to Petaluma.
There are two things you need to know about Nick: 1) Boating is life 2) Food and cooking rank a close second. Nick lives on a boat in Sausalito, which explains his permanent sun-kissed skin and penchant for boating belts and collared shirts, but his romance with water dates back to childhood. Nick grew up in Connecticut and often could be found sailing the waters of Nantucket or learning about whole foods from his farmer grandfather. After a three-day college stint, Nick left and headed to Ft. Lauderdale to start a boat-detailing business. When business slowed, Nick would drop anchor in favor of an apron and work in restaurants.
After some parental prodding to go back to school, the only logical choice was culinary school. Nick enrolled in the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in Napa and earned a one-year internship at The Inn at Little Washington, which received the James Beard Award in the same year. Word got out about the sailor-turned-chef and upon graduation Nick was recruited to work as a private yacht chef. Nick traveled the world and expanded his culinary repertoire, made even easier by the bounty of ingredients at his fingertips. Yet in 1999, after 6 years of working as a private chef, Nick felt the itch to move again and rode cross-country on his motorcycle from Miami to California.
Upon arrival in California, Nick immediately noticed local fascination with a little wonder known as a taqueria. Being from New England, this was unchartered territory. Every person Nick met seemed to have a favorite set of taquerias up an down the coast. Interest turned into passion and borderline obsession. Nick loved to ask, “What’s your favorite taqueria and where is it?” Many of these questions turned into midweek trips to Modesto or Yosemite in search of the “perfect taco.”
Flash forward several years and Nick has an impressive resume of successful taco shop creations. His first, Nick’s Crispy on Polk, still has lines out the door for the double layer soft and hard shell tortilla tacos with loads of meat, pico de gallo, cheese and guacamole. Although no longer part of Nick’s Crispy, he opened The Taco Shop at Underdogs in the Inner Richmond, serving the same favorite tacos Nick’s Way in a lively sports bar environment.
It seems only natural that the time has come for Nick to merge his loves for the ocean and the kitchen and open Tacko, a Nantucket-inspired taqueria poised to hit the Marina in a couple weeks. Nick and his business partner Doug Marschke capitalized on the misfortune of short-timer Kasa Indian Eatery, taking over the lease and infrastructure and giving the dark space a vibrant facelift. White wooden panel walls, teak and holly wood countertops, nautical light fixtures, and a compass rose mural infuse the space with thoughts of the seaside. The name Tacko is inspired by “ACK” the airport code for Nantucket and the logo is a red and blue “burgee,” or yacht club flag. Nick says his spot is kind of like “yacht club taco” and invites guests to come into the clean, well-lit spot for “really good, fast, healthy food that is true to the flavors in a comfortable environment.” Try and grab a seat by the front windows, which accordion out to reveal patio seating perfect for a warm Indian summer day in SF.
The Tacko menu will for the most part mirror Underdogs. As a Cow Hollow resident, I am counting down the days until I can sink my teeth into a juicy tomato mole chicken, carne asada, crispy carnitas or Baja fish taco served Nick’s Way. Tacko will not have any nachos or wings on the menu, but it will be offering a lobster roll a la Nantucket, served on a toasted torpedo roll with heaps of buttered Maine lobster. Beer, wine, and agave wine margaritas form the drink menu and rumor has it the margaritas will be available by the bucket or pail. Tacko is set to open the week after Bay to Breakers with hours 11AM to 10PM, 7 days a week. Perfect timing if you ask me to nurse that hangover with a hefty taco or lobster roll.
Fillmore St, cross Filbert
Anne Pao is a contributing food writer for SF Station and Yum as well as the SF Burger Examiner. When she is not satisfying carnivorous tendencies, you can find her adventuring in the Bay area outdoors. For more Pao reads check out her blog at http://sftaoofpao.com