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Taquiza's Steve Santana Talks Staying True to the Concept and Those Famous Masa Tortillas

"We haven't gone kind of like fusion-y or like modern. We've just been doing what we think is right. We just stuck with that."

Tasting Tables

Earlier this week, South Beach taqueria, Taquiza, celebrated its first anniversary. In a town that has more taco shops than you can count, Taquiza has managed to stick out in the crowd with its authentic tacos and even more authentic handmade masa tortillas that has every food-lover in town talking. Eater sat down with its executive chef Steve Santana to learn more about the restaurant's first year and what's next for the concept.

Overall, how was the first year at Taquiza?

Pretty good. Better than expected. Definitely it is surprising how much we kept evolving and learning and especially with the masa and the corn. We're still it and learning so it's like ... There hasn't been enough time to get bored I guess is what I'm trying to say. There's always something going on, something happening, something to learn.

What would you say were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the past year?

Always kind of scaling up. Maybe not anticipating how well received it was, I guess. Kind of just dealing with that and then there was like crowds, which we learned right after we first opened during Art Basel. That was like a quick lesson and yeah, just like getting the corn right, getting the production right, getting the timing right. Finding out how to organize staff and hours and just the whole thing was pretty interesting.

What would you say has been the biggest accomplishment over the past year?

Hmm. I guess, just being true to the original idea and concept. Like, we haven't kind of deviated. We haven't gone kind of like fusion-y or like modern. We've just been doing what we think is right. We just stuck with that.

You kind of touched on the whole restaurant evolving. Can you elaborate on that, how has it evolved in the past year?

Clinically, like we have this new equipment that we just put in, maybe like less than a month ago actually. Just like, menu items grew. I think we opened with like three tacos. We grew that group. Kind of tweaked all the recipes and meat proteins, also just getting events set up and being invited to all these different things. I mean, it's like the whole thing is just like ... It's very different from when I was doing my lunch at Eating House or stuff at Shaker, like dinner service or special events. It's been like a very unique kind of thing.

And the tortillas, we have to talk about those. They became very popular very quickly and you supply them for a lot of restaurants now. How are you managing that kind of growing demand along with the restaurant?

That's been tricky. Just scaling it up. Getting the timing right. At the beginning, I used to like roll out tortillas usually to order. Now we have like a pretty good system where someone gets here early, does like 50 batches and kind of sets us up for the whole day. It's part of the daily prep now.  We send out what we need. We've got two guys now that just bang it out every morning starting from like 5am or 6am.

You have a new beer garden concept in the works, The Grdn, any updates on that?

It's coming along cool. We've got these guys to help design the space and build out the bar for us. Actually, they built Sweet Liberty. They had a hand in that. Their work is pretty cool. It should be coming up this month. We're just waiting on the new keg box and then they're going to build the back bar around it which is pretty much almost assembled already, so I mean, it's pretty close. Licenses and all that they're already there from the property, so that's not an issue. We'll work on the hot dog cart concept after the bar opens up. Maybe give them a little time to breathe and then we'll bring them the food part.

Does it feel like it has been a year?

Not even. Nope. Not at all. Went by like that. Kind of ridiculous.

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