The two biggest food stories in Lansing this week can be summed up in one word: Taco — “Mr.” and “Punk,” respectively.
Last weekend, restaurateur Bill Bonofiglo staged a sneak premiere of the relaunch of Mr. Taco, the south Lansing restaurant his father started in 1967. After teasing the restaurant’s reopening for nearly three years, he held backto-back drive-thru only events at the location, 3124 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., last Friday and Saturday as a training session for new staff.
Cars snaked down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as customers waited for popular favorites from the original restaurant’s heyday, including the red all-meat burrito and the beef enchilada combo, AKA, “the #14.” Fans posted photos, disappointed customers ranted, yet permanent hours were never announced. Bonofiglo did not return interview requests, so stay tuned I guess.
Meanwhile, following a similar nearly three-year hiatus after first being announced, Punk Taco has been given an opening date, albeit not at the original intended location near Frandor. Next Tuesday, April 3, the latest addition to the Potent Potables Project restaurant group will open in the space adjacent to the group’s Creole Burger Bar & Southern Kitchen. Punk Taco will have tacos, tequila, tamales and other Mexican fare that doesn’t start with “t” – just don’t saddle it with labels like “bar” or “restaurant.”
“We’re calling ourselves a ‘taco joint,’” said Sam Short, one of the three Potent Potables co-owners. “We’re going to be doing with tacos what Cosmos did with pizza – definitely nontraditional.”
The menu — created by chef Scott MacPherson, who also oversees the Creole’s kitchen — consists of 10 tacos, as well as nachos and sopes (fried tostadas). Taco creations will include Thai-spiced beets with pickled peanuts, ancho shrimp with habañero honey and blackened salmon with caper relish.
Short described the set-up as “hybrid pub-style service” – basically, a twist on fast casual. Customers will order their food (and cocktails, if they want them) at the bar, then sit down either inside the 38-seat space or outside on the patio, shared with the Creole. The server/ bartender will then deliver the food when it comes up, and continue bar service, if desired.
“Surveying other concepts and talking to local restaurant users, we found that customers are trending toward efficiency on the front end,” Short said. “They don’t like waiting to be seated, then waiting for their server before they even order their food. We’re going to able to eliminate a lot of the waiting time and still retain a model that’s close to full-service.”
The bar will have at least 15 types of tequila, as well as craft beer cans, a limited wine menu and a selection of specialty cocktails, including margaritas that will be served in branded take-home cups. And as for that name?
“I loved punk rock when I was a kid, and we thought the name fit our concept,” Short said. “We’re going to have a heavy punk music motif, including a 7-foot mural done by a New York artist who specializes in hyper-realistic paintings of mosh pits. We try to do a little something different at each location. It’s fun to keep people on their toes.”
Punk Taco (opening Tuesday, April 3) 1216 Turner St., Lansing 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday