Tac-oh! seeks to set itself apart, even before its flavorful food touches your taste buds. Mexican with a Californian twist, the restaurant visually accentuates its fusion blending by contrasting a modern color scheme of bold red, green, and gold with a weathered brick accent wall. This upbeat, funky taqueria is the newest concept of owner Molly Adams’ brand, the youngest sister of a family of restaurants including Opa! (authentic Greek cuisine), Willard Hicks (steakhouse and grill), and Mo’s (breakfast and burgers).
As with its older sisters, Tac-oh!’s décor was all selected and placed by Adams herself. “I can walk into a place, and I can sort of see it the way I want it to look,” Adams says. The most prominent feature of this location is spiny lights that almost defy description—golden urchins perhaps, possibly frozen fireworks. “I didn’t know I wanted these crazy, spiky, pointy lights,” Adams comments. “But I knew that I wanted something fun, and I knew that I wanted gold accents.”
Initially in tech, Adams was surprised to discover her creative streak upon entering the dining industry. “I got into this business by accident, really,” she says. After burning out on the breakneck pace of startup culture, she was introduced to her former business partner who was looking to expand the Opa! brand at the time. When Adams became the sole owner, she delved deeper into her new industry, assimilating its many facets. “You just jump in and do it. Ask questions. Figure it out. You might mess up, but you can then self-correct and change directions.”
Adams’ creativity overflows into much more than interior design. She bends her imagination to the menus—considering color scheme, offerings, and creative names for each item. She also enjoys plating dishes to ensure a pleasing presentation. As these edible art pieces are set on the table, it’s not uncommon for guests to savor them visually for a few seconds before succumbing to the urge to dig in to Mexican comfort food.
What constitutes comfort food? “I suppose that depends on who’s defining it,” Adams muses. Of course, there’s your traditional side dishes like Spanish rice and refried beans with cheese. “I really like fresh, bright flavors,” Adams says of her own definition of comfort. She then notes there’s also warmth in an inclusive menu. “I focus on an offering to suit everybody. Just because I don’t like something or I do like something doesn’t mean that you’re going to like it.” The restaurant offers light and heavy meals, vegetarian and keto options, and all the anticipated staples like chicken, carnitas, carne asada, al pastor, ahi, and shrimp. One special dish Adams and her executive chef crafted to assure satisfied vegetarian guests is the crunchy avocado tacos. Picture crispy tempura avocado, layered with pico de gallo and arugula, and sprinkled with radishes and cilantro.
Of course, the vibe of any restaurant is also heavily influenced by the values of its fearless leader. Though Adams’ brand staffs about 1,000 employees, she still makes an effort to know names. “I try really hard to make sure that everyone on the staff knows that they can talk to me. Just because I’m the owner, I’m not unapproachable.” Adams also emphasizes her readiness to roll up her sleeves. “I need them to understand and know that there’s nothing that they’re asked to do or expected to do that I wouldn’t do, and I wouldn’t do right along with them—or do for them to make whatever is going on in their situation easier.” Practically, this means that if everyone else has their hands full, she’s not above taking out the trash.
Though Adams oversees 11 restaurants (with five more on the way), Tac-oh!’s location, on the corner of South First Street and San Salvador, holds special significance to her. She explains that upstairs she used to frequent the Agenda Lounge, a SoFA District staple for many years. One of the DJs became her husband; he also happens to own the new club upstairs, Avery Lounge. On Taco Tuesdays and Friday and Saturday nights, the couple’s DJ friends (many of whom they met at Agenda) perform at Tac-oh! It’s Adams’ hope her latest restaurant will become the neighborhood’s go-to taqueria, part of the next generation of downtown hangouts. “I mean Tac-oh! should be your place to go to for tacos, right?” she laughs.
This article originally appeared in Issue 10.5 “Dine”