There’s still a couple weeks before North Park’s newest restaurant throws its door open to the public, but Eater has some early insight into the food and drink program at Tamarindo, which replaces the long-tenured Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge at the corner of University and Kansas. The brightly-painted pink and blue facade, which is said to have taken inspiration from the iconic Art Deco buildings of Miami’s South Beach, fronts an freshly-redone interior that’s meant to evoke a Mexican zocalo, or main square. Eater recently sat down with the culinary team, executive chef Elliott Townsend and bar manager Mark Broadfoot; the local talents are both native San Diegans and North Park residents, and also happen to be best friends.
Formerly executive chef of Eat at The Pearl in Point Loma, Townsend spent the last year in the kitchen of Little Italy’s Juniper & Ivy; he carries his experience and respect for seasonal ingredients into Tamarindo, which will have an ever-nimble seafood and vegetable-focused menu utilizing fish from Catalina Offshore and local fishermen plus top-notch produce. Though the concept’s plates were originally going to reflect a variety of Latin cultures, Townsend says that most of the dishes will be derived from the food he knows best via his Mexican heritage and a lifetime spent in San Diego. There will be classic fish tacos, grilled or beer-battered, tacos filled with tempura avocado and crab salad, and banana leaf-wrapped fish served with lime-coconut jasmine rice, plus grilled market veggies with herb salsa verde, jicama salad with tamarind vinaigrette, a pork schnitzel served adobada-style and slow-roasted brisket tacos. Townsend told Eater that he wants to bring a local spin to traditional Mexican dishes; his take on authentic mole, which flavors sweet potato rolled tacos and sauces a half chicken entree, employs a chocolately San Diego stout beer.
The chef’s involvement in the project led to the hire of neighbor and close friend Mark Broadfoot, who is also one of San Diego’s authorities on agave spirits. Broadfoot created the bar program for Galaxy Taco and brings his obsession for tequila and mezcal to Tamarindo, where he will also pay homage to other Latin cultures through rum-based drinks. Describing his cocktail list as rooted in quality spirits and housemade elements, from bitters to gomme syrups, Broadfoot says they will be batched for speed to keep up with what’s expected to be a fast-moving bar scene. His cocktails include a draft house margarita made with orange shrub, lime and orange-bourbon bitters, a Oaxacan old fashioned with mezcal and mole bitters and a take on the classic rum-based Airmail with lime, local honey, sparkling wine and lavender absinthe. The bar will also feature draft beer, micheladas and wine, along with a carefully chosen selection of spirits. Broadfoot is particularly passionate about sustainably-produced and harvested tequila; his list is made up of great sippers that also qualify as “bat-friendly” bottles.