WILMINGTON — You won’t have to wait nine months to have your very own taco baby.
Grace Street’s newest addition Tacobaby opens next week, with a soft opening Thursday through Saturday.
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It’s the third restaurant venture on the same block in just three years from the business trio Joseph and Abigail Sena and Ivan “Chip” Moore.
With years of restaurant and bar experience shared amongst them, the team spent the Covid-19 closure rehauling the space next to their other baby, Rumcow, which opened in 2018. The year prior, the team opened the cocktail bar Whiskey Tango Foxtrot a few doors down.
Now, the Sena’s are married and have an eight-month-old daughter, Jolene —- “the original taco baby,” Joseph Sena said.
Their investment in Grace Street is intentional. Upfitting each space captures foot traffic generated by the hotels, Sena said, which in turn brings business to the whole block. Since starting work on Tacobaby, Sena said he’s frequently asked whether he’s concerned his businesses will compete with one another.
“It’s the Coke-Pepsi challenge. You can come to Grace Street to eat. But you’re going to be on Grace Street — that’s good for me,” he said.
Years ago, Sena said he tried to purchase the space that now hosts Tacobaby to no avail. When it finally did become available, Sena grabbed it, despite being just two weeks into Covid-19 shutdowns amid the restaurant business freefalling industry-wide.
“I feel really at home. I’m really comfortable on this block,” he said.
Tacobaby’s menu has the classics — what you’d expect out of a taco-centric restaurant. But it also features several eccentric choices, not based in a particular region or culinary style but simply on what tastes good. Braised duck, for example, typically wouldn’t make its way into a taco with mango and pecan salsa.
“We like taking something that should be a certain way and mixing it up and doing a casual service, pseudo-fine-dining taco thing,” Sena said. “I like a casual restaurant that’s kicking out food that shouldn’t be in a casual environment.”
Scroll to view a few appetizers: (From left to right) chipotle mezcal wings, gazpacho with shrimp, corn-stuffed jalapeno hush puppies with garlic aioli sauce
The restaurant also boasts three vegan taco options: citrus jackfruit, impossible burger crumble, and adobo baked cauliflower.
Tacobaby will be entirely self-paced, Sena said, as a deli hybrid. Customers can order food from the bar, grab a bite and leave in 10 minutes or linger for while, sampling one (or a few) of its 34 tequilas and eight specialty mezcals.
“Our whole vibe for everything is just comfortable,” Abigail Sena said. “Quick and easy and comfortable, but also, you could celebrate a birthday party here, or a bachelorette party or a baby shower, and kind of anything across the board.”
Moore, who’s heading up the cocktail menu, said each drink will be customized based on each customer’s flavor profile, from aged, smokey, spicey, sour, or sweet. “It’s all about agave,” he said.
Scroll to view a few tacos: (From left to right) vegan jackfruit, vegan adobo baked cauliflower, duck confit.
“Every single cocktail is going to taste a little bit different depending on which tequila you pick. The sky’s the limit,” Abigail Sena said.
Sena brought her knack for design to this project, introducing contrasting whites and blacks complemented by pink and green hues. “We wanted more of an ambiance with the food,” she said.
“Whenever we do builds, we want the room to stand on its own,” Joseph Sena added.
Tacobaby.’s soft opening will take place between Thursday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 125 Grace Street.
Regular hours begin Thursday, Sept. 24, open Tuesday through Saturday between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Hours and availability will be extended when N.C. enters phase three.
Click to enlarge and scroll through more photos of Tacobaby:
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