Interview with Founder Dario Wolos
Summer is upon us and as a result New Yorkers are pushing to be beach body ready. Food that won't leave people feeling weighed down and bloated in time for their weekend Montauk plans has become top of mind for most people in the city looking for a little respite from the concrete jungle. Lucky for us, the perfect place for summer eating already exists and has 3 locations – 2 in Manhattan and 1 in Montauk. The place I’m talking about is the iconic Tacombi, which started in Nolita and has expanded to Cafe el Presidente in Flatiron and Las Brisas in Montauk. We had a chance to chat with founder Dario Wolos about what makes his restaurants the place to pick up a bite before heading out east and where his dream is taking him.
Grungy Gentleman: How has the Tacombi brand evolved since its inception?
Dario Wolos: When we drove our first VW combi (mini van) out of Mexico City towards Playa del Carmen in 2005, the very simple plan was to share Mexican taco culture with the world. As we’ve grown and moved to NYC, our mission has evolved to showcase and highlight the best of Mexican Hospitality. Tacos continue to be our focus, but we are committed to sharing them with those values of hospitality we find to be unique in Mexican culture.
GG: What led to the development of Cafe el Presidente? What sets it apart from the Nolita location?
Dario Wolos: Our plan in New York is to build and operate neighborhood taquerias. Cafe el Presidente is different from Fonda Nolita primarily in that it serves the local Flatiron/Nomad community. We hope that each taqueria tells a different story of Mexico - here we focused on a classic Mexico City cafeteria, a place for our guests to gather for coffee, drinks, and food. We led the project with a renewed focus on our food philosophy highlighting organic and sustainably sourced ingredients to create a menu as close to Mexico as possible - healthy so that it can be eaten daily with enough variety to satisfy different palates.
GG: What sets the Tacombi brand apart from other Mexican restaurants?
Dario Wolos: I think we’re all trying to share something about a place that isn’t fully understood and has so much still to be discovered beyond the mainstream. With Tacombi we’re trying to dig deeper and share more of the Mexican experience. Our focus on using high quality organic and local ingredients as is often the case in Mexico by default - such as the pork for the pastor and carnitas from Fossil Farms - is a differentiator here in the U.S. Unfortunately there is a misconception that Mexican food is somehow cheap when in fact its just as elaborate and labor intensive as French or other cuisines. Through our open kitchens, we also try to share a glimpse into the huge amount of work that goes into making every detail of what we do.
GG: What inspires the menu? Does it change seasonally?
Dario Wolos: The menu is based on regional stories and we try to reflect what you will find in Mexico City in the case of Cafe El Presidente. Chef Jason DeBriere uses seasonal ingredients where it makes sense and you’ll mostly find those adaptations in the salsas for some of our tacos, the specials, and his awesome soups. Seriously - his soups are amazing.
GG: Any further expansion plans?
Dario Wolos: For New York, our next two projects this year will take us to the West Village and further uptown. Beyond that we’re interested in the Financial District and a couple of neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
GG: What's your favorite dish/drink on the menu?
Dario Wolos: Apart from the soups, Puerco Toluca - a recipe Jason has developed by making his own chorizo verde. Toluca is a city just north of Mexico DF where you can find many examples of this home made Mexican sausage. We make it from scratch and its awesome. The Mezcal Mule is also one of my favorites, though I’m a fan of just having it neat. We’ve got a great selection there and the bar tries to bring back some of that classic Mexico city vibe.
Tacos are never a bad idea and have become a staple in the diet of most New Yorkers, so having an option that’s perfect for the summer is almost as rare as finding a parking spot on the street.