Marin County doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being one of the Bay Area’s premier taco destinations. (Some might even call certain stretches of the wealthy, predominantly white county a taco desert of sorts.) But no longer: Later this year, El Tucán, one of the East Bay’s very best taquerias, will open a new outpost on the San Rafael waterfront that’s larger and even more ambitious than its original Richmond location.
Like the original El Tucán, tacos at the new spot—called El Tucán Tacos and Beer—will feature all the hallmarks of the Tijuana style: handmade tortillas, a dollop of guacamole on every taco and, most importantly, meats that have been grilled over fire. The idea is for customers at the new taqueria to be able to enjoy some of the tastiest carne asada in the Bay on the waterfront deck, cold beer or michelada in hand.
According to co-owner Alfredo Padilla, El Tucán Tacos and Beer should open in December or January, in the space previously occupied by Pier 15, a San Rafael institution that closed in the early months of the pandemic.
When El Tucán first burst onto Richmond’s much-vaunted Mexican food scene two years ago, the taqueria’s biggest point of distinction was its focus on Tijuana-style tacos—a rarity in the Bay Area. It was, and remains, one of a very small number of taquerias in the East Bay that grills its meats over fire instead of just on a flat-top. Its quesatacos, whose tortillas are gilded with a thin layer of brown, crispy cheese, can go toe to toe with any taco in the Bay Area.
The restaurant immediately drew long lines at all times of day and, according to Padilla, maintained its popularity even through the worst of the pandemic. “Being mostly a takeout restaurant helped us stay busy,” Padilla says.