Old Town’s main thoroughfare will get a dose of Oaxacan culture and cuisine with the arrival of Tahona, which is scheduled to land next to the historic Cemetery of El Campo Santo this fall. Combining a dedicated mezcal tasting room with a full-service restaurant that will serve a modern Mexican menu infused with the flavors of Oaxaca, the 2,000 square-foot restaurant and bar is being designed by former “Design Star” finalist JG Color Studios and will feature large Spanish-style archways with rattan lights hung throughout the space, plus vintage furniture, hand painted tiles, and custom elements including hand-troweled clay walls.
Tahona will center around a “proper mezcal tasting room” says owner Amar Harrag, who is building the venue along with a group of fellow mezcal enthusiasts. Harrag, a USD grad and native of Antibes, France, co-owns four locations of Matisse Bistro in San Diego and runs a local real estate brokerage. His connections to Mexico include serving as a board member for the non-profit Create Purpose and founding the local chapter of Corazon de Vida; both organizations support orphaned and abandoned children in Baja.
It will offer more than 120 varieties of mezcal, with a focus on education and programming ranging from tasting events to group trips to Oaxaca and Baja led by San Francisco’s Steven Sadri, a mezcal expert who has been traveling to Oaxaca for a decade. Emily Thompson, also from San Francisco where she managed the popular Nopalito and Cala, will oversee Tahona’s front of house.
Two well-known local bartenders will share beverage director duties — Carlo Bracci Devoti and United States Bartenders Guild Vice President Blair Marano; Marano tells Eater that their agave-based cocktails will be approachable and fun, rooted in classics ranging from a Margarita and Paloma to The Batanga and a Mexican Firing Squad, with some tropical drinks and frozen slushees mixed in. Devoti and Marano will also play a role in the development of a companion speakeasy, which will launch by the end of 2018.