The family-run Puesto restaurant chain, which rapidly found an audience with its modern Mexican cuisine and unique taco offerings in Southern California, will open its fifth restaurant in six years, and first in the Bay Area, this May.
Having been drawn to Silicon Valley’s reputation for innovation, “tacoteurs” Eric Adler—a lifelong San Francisco 49ers fan—brother Alan and cousin Isidoro Lombrozo are set to open a 6,000-square foot restaurant in Santa Clara Square at the corner of Bowers Avenue and Scott Boulevard.
The Santa Clara Puesto will be the chain’s largest location with appealing features that include wrap-around patio seating, chef’s table for special events, skylights, handmade concrete tiles throughout, hydraulic liquor shelves and a mural by local artist Chor Boogie. Additionally, the 300-plus capacity restaurant can be configured to host events of various sizes.
While the colorful design and special features help create the artesian space the company strives for, the brand is entirely food-focused and keenly aware of where it sits within the market.
“It’s all about the food for us,” said Adler. “Like, the design is amazing and we love everything that goes on with the restaurant—our people, our staff—but the food is really what drives us. [We house make] fresh corn tortillas from non-GMO, organic corn. For a taco to be great, corn tortillas need to be made all the time. It’s not like we make them in the morning and are ready to go. It’s on demand. Every single tortilla is rolled and pressed.
“Everybody gets tacos at Puesto,” he continued. “We don’t have enchiladas. We don’t have burritos. We don’t have a lot of the chile rellanos and other Mexican stuff you can think of. Yes, we have ceviches and guacamoles. We have some taquitos. We have different small bites, but everybody at Puesto eats tacos so the tortilleria is very important.”
Puesto has been featured in everything from Food & Wine Magazine to Eater.com and Executive Chef and Partner Luisteen Gonzalez’s creations consistently rank it among the best restaurants in San Diego and Orange County. Santa Clara’s taco offerings will include a Hog Island fried oyster taco specific to the location and filet mingon option with crispy melted cheese, avocado and spicy pistachio serrano.
That’s not to say Puesto isn’t mindful of vegetarians, and the menu will include at least a couple meat-free choices. Puesto will also feature Humphry Slocombe ice creams and desserts developed by Chef de Postres Jessica Scott, who was featured on Food Network’s “Dessert Games” and “Halloween Baking Championship.” And, although Puesto’s unique take on Mexican street food and sweets leaves little to be desired, the restaurant’s libation menu will attract customers with its specially curated list of local and Mexican beer, wine and liquor.
“Beer is a big deal for us too,” said Adler. “San Diego is a huge craft beer market. We’re obviously going to have local beer but one thing that’s really special is that we’re going to do is we’re going to bring in—and it’s really unique to this area—is the spirits, beer and wine program, focused on what’s going on in Mexico and Mexico City and in Northern Baja.”
“Our wine list in San Diego and Orange County is probably 90 percent Valle de Guadalupe wine,” said Lucien Conner, Puesto’s director of operations, adding that the restaurant has a good reputation with its suppliers and many of the wine and beer offerings are not currently available in the Bay Area. The spirits, he said, will also be made with fresh juices and house-made syrups.
“We have a really well curated agave list,” said Conner. “So, we usually keep between 30 and 40 agave-based spirits on the menu. We don’t ever want to be the place that has 100 tequilas or 100 mezcals. We want to have the best expression from each of the producers we work with, where, if you look at our menu, you can’t go wrong; you’re going to get something interesting.”
Adler said the team is excited about opening in Santa Clara, but wants to make sure Puesto’s expansion is controlled. “We’re not opening a ton of these,” he said. “We’re not a chain who wants to open a bunch of them. We want to take our time and pick our spots.”
Puesto is at 2752 Augustine Drive. A second Bay Area Puesto location will open in Concord later this year. Visit www.eatpuesto.com for additional information or follow the company’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/puestosantaclara for updates.