Aiming to resonate with locals and appeal to the tourist crowd, Tahona has arrived in the heart of Old Town. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant and bar starts serving a limited dinner menu this weekend, with plans to officially grand open on Tuesday, November 13 with its first Tahona Taco Tuesday. From 5 p.m. to midnight that evening, one dollar from every taco sold will donated to Corazon de Vida, a 501C3 nonprofit that supports orphanages throughout Baja California; its San Diego chapter was founded by Tahona owner Amar Harrag, a USD grad who co-owns several locations of Matisse Bistro and runs Allied Green Realty.
At its core, Tahona is a modern showcase for the gastronomic treasures of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s culinary capitals and the hub of mezcal production. Designed by JG Color Studios, the space features hand painted tiles, hand troweled clay walls, vintage furniture, and Spanish archways that lead from the 60-seat tasting room to the cocktail bar.
Tahona’s menu of modern Mexican food mostly reflects Oaxacan cuisine with some influences from Baja. Executive chef Adrian Villareal Mora worked with Corazon de Tierra’s Diego Hernandez and cooked extensively in Europe, including at Noma in Copenhagen; an experienced forager, his dishes include lamb barbacoa, scallop aguachile, and a flight of Oaxacan moles.
A 14-seat tasting room will be dedicated to mezcal exploration and education; leading the program is Steven Sadri, a mezcal expert from San Francisco who has traveled extensively in Oaxaca and plans on leading regular tours of Oaxaca and Baja. In the reservation-only space, Sadri will host guided in-depth, hour-long tastings of select mezcal from Tahona’s impressive collection of more than 120 varieties that will eventually also be available for retail. Emily Thompson, another Bay Area transplant and an alum of San Francisco’s notable Nopalito and Cala, will oversee the front of house.
Beverage directors Carlo Bracci Devoti and Blair Marano are two veterans of the industry who last worked together at George’s at the Cove’s Level2 bar. Their cocktails, priced accessibly in the $8 to $10 range, but made with housemade ingredients including tepache and mole grenadine, run from classic Margaritas and Paloma to more complex drinks named after local landmarks, including the Campo Santo with Espolon Blanco with passionfruit, coconut water, fresno chili, Cointreau, agave, and lime and the Whaley House Punch, a mix of Domingo Espadin with salted watermelon, pineapple, Campari, lime, and Pernod Absinthe.
The two cocktail pros will also preside over an intimate 10-seat speakeasy hidden at the back of the space. It won’t launch until early next year but will feature more technical cocktails and bartender interaction.