Don’t feel like braving the line-ups at Grand Electric? This vegetarian-friendly taco joint has room for you and 199 others.
In the time of 30-seat restaurants, bar menus so small they could be printed on an index card, and of course, no reservations, the weeks-old Kitch (229 Geary) is a bit of an anomaly.
Well, not entirely: It still serves tacos, tall boys, has DJs pumping out beats late into the night (the kitchen closes at 2 a.m.), and is owned by two young friends who have a strong background in music and entertainment. However, the new venture by Jose Rodriguez and Bryan Jackson (the latter also owns the nearby Starving Artist with his wife) addresses the frustrations some diners have with the recent fleet of hole-in-the-wall, meat-heavy establishments downtown.
For one thing, the place can seat upwards of 200 people (90 in the dining room, 60 in the upstairs lounge, and another 50 in the fenced-off patio) thanks to its location in a sleepy, industrial part of the city surrounded by auto-body shops. There are also decent vegetarian offerings, since Rodriguez doesn’t eat meat. And Kitch actually encourages patrons to book their parties there.
In fact, the place does look like one giant party room (albeit, an adult-oriented one) as psychedelic knick-knacks of piñatas, old cookie jars, cutlery, and cups are stacked at the open kitchen and bar. Old, wood-paneled speakers are stacked on top of each other against the wall like a game of Tetris. And the bar is extra slick thanks to its former life was a bowling lane.
“We looked a little off the beaten path so we wouldn’t blend in,” says Jackson, who also has a background in designing window displays. “But, at the end of the day, it was the space. When we saw it, we thought we weren’t going to find anything else like this.”
And so the two signed the lease in November and started construction last January in what was once the Copas Café Portuguese restaurant. With the exception of the hood in the kitchen, everything else is new—or rather, brought in from vintage stores. Jackson got to colouring on the giant black-and-white mural (so far he’s used up 22 Sharpies) and Rodriguez’s fiancé got cracking in the kitchen.
On my visit, she started with a gooey and spicy mac and cheese (Havarti, parmesan, and cheddar) with little matchsticks of smoked bacon ($10). Then came the tacos (10 kinds available, $9 for two), including a vegetarian version with a creamy chipotle sweet-potato and goat-cheese filling for those who are sick of soy. On the other hand, a barbecue beef brisket with rice, tomatoes, and onion is juicy and delightfully messy. There are also nachos ($12.50, plus more for meat), burritos ($10 to $12), salads, ceviches, quesadillas, and desserts of sautéed pineapple with fro-yo, and a baked tortilla filled with fruit and served with chocolate sauce ($6).
The upstairs lounge is not unlike the basement from That ’70s Show, with its grandma couches and old fixtures. The only 21st-century element is the flatscreen televisions that provide a live feed of the adjacent train tracks. While there are no plans to open for lunch any time soon, the Kitch crew are thinking of hosting summertime barbecues in the patio during the afternoon.