Chef Izzy Tahil and his food truck, Blue Pacific Grill and Taco Bar has been a staple at various food truck rallies around town for a few years. But now, he’s expanding and opening a new standalone restaurant on San Jose Blvd in Mandarin on May 3rd, 2017. I had a chance to sit down with Chef Izzy and his wife Tracy to get a preview of what’s to come and to learn more about the concept, style, and influences.
Chef Izzy’s story starts off like so many restaurateurs, working a corporate 9-to-5 job when the call of cooking became too strong to resist. He cooked most of his life and traveled plenty; counting Mexican, Asian, and a bit of Jamaican as his influences. He knew he wanted to share his vision of “Fresh Ingredients and Globe Trippin’ Flavors” to the masses. He started as a vendor at Riverside Arts Market. Tacos became the culinary canvas of choice mainly for convenience. Tacos provided a quick, easy, hand-held way for diners to enjoy his fresh and robust flavors while walking around.
After finding success as a RAM vendor, he expanded his business and started a food truck. From there, his business continued to flourish. A regular on the food truck rally circuit, many people have enjoyed his signature tacos, such as the Bang Bang Shrimp Taco, made with fried popcorn shrimp, lettuce, scallions, Thai sweet chili, and Sriracha Yum Yum sauce. If you’ve never had Blue Pacific Tacos before, Chef Izzy says the Grilled Mojo Chicken taco is a great “gateway taco.” It’s grilled chicken marinated in OJ and garlic, served on a corn tortilla with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, cheese, and Pico de Gallo. It’s a good taco to get a sense of his cooking style, influences, and flavor profile.
With over 1300 followers on Instagram, 2500 likes on Facebook, and a 4-star average rating on Yelp, Chef Izzy enjoys an ardent and loyal following. Based on that and his growing food truck business, he felt the time was right to finally pull the trigger on a standalone restaurant. Starting this restaurant, however, doesn’t mean the end of the food truck. It’ll still be out and about town, serving Jacksonvillians the wonderful tacos they’ve come to know and love.
His vision for the restaurant is a laid back atmosphere, where people can relax, eat a taco or two with good friends and family and make mealtime a social affair. The interior décor fits this vision with sky blue walls, pop and beach music playing through the speakers, vintage “postcard” style artwork, a bar area serving wine, local craft beers, and well known national brands, warm wood interior tables, and an outdoor seating area with brightly colored tables and chairs.
Having a standalone restaurant also offers some distinct advantages. The larger kitchen and storage space means more menu items. In addition to his regular taco menu, he will also offer two special tacos per day on a bi-weekly rotational basis. Some examples of these special tacos Chef Izzy may offer could be a Korean Bulgogi style taco and Indian inspired tacos served on Paratha. The only limits are his imagination. These taco specials will only be available at the restaurant. He will also offer “tapas” style shareable plates such as Luzon Lumpia, Falafel, chicken wings, and others. Chef Izzy will include themed days such as Taco Tuesdays (discounts on tacos), Wine Down Wednesdays (weekly wine specials), and Thirsty Thursdays (weekly beer specials). The outdoor area will have a small stage area for live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
But wait. . .there’s more. Chef Izzy plans to offer a delivery service serving the Mandarin area within a 3 – 5 mile radius of the restaurant with a goal of order to delivery in 20 minutes or less. It’ll have its own dedicated line, 904-853-TACO. Catchy, right?
Ambitious plans to be sure, but with all of the success Chef Izzy has found, first as a RAM vendor, then as a food truck operator, I have a feeling his new restaurant concept will surpass any and all expectations he placed on himself. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see more Blue Pacific Tacos launching in other parts of the city someday. But until then, I have a feeling he’ll have a steady stream of customers when he officially opens on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017.
Blue Pacific Tacos
9965 San Jose Blvd Ste #48