Two new restaurants have opened in recent months on the opposite side of Gilbert Road, both hawking tacos and more to the growing downtown Gilbert dining crowd.
Yet the owners of SoCal Fish Taco Company and Joyride Taco House appear content with the idea that they’re not necessarily competitors, per se. Rather, by opening less than a month apart at the same intersection, they’re helping create more dining options, catering to distinct tastes in a flourishing district.
On May 13, Pablo Reynoso Jr., opened seafood-centric SoCal Fish Taco Company with a soft opening in Gilbert’s Heritage Court district. Less than a month later, on June 4, Joyride Taco House, a Mexican-style eatery from Valley restaurant developer Upward Projects, opened its doors virtually across the street.
“I think there’s plenty to go around here in Gilbert,” he said of the numerous restaurants and bars in the downtown area. And in reference to the area’s two new taco haunts: “They’re two different worlds; they’re two different types of food.”
Reynoso said the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce called him offering to host a ceremonial ribbon cutting. But fine-tuning his service and daily operations is his goal before scheduling an official grand opening.
“It’s something I’ve been wanting to do, I’ll tell you the truth, for a long time. And I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it in a town like Gilbert,” Reynoso said. “It’s a great city. The people are awesome here. I can’t be more thrilled to have it in downtown Gilbert.”
He said his restaurant, located at 219 N. Gilbert Rd., has a Southern California coastal theme, serving fish tacos, clam chowder, shrimp cocktail, salads and sandwiches on baskets and paper plates.
And from ahi to mahi — both caught wild in the Pacific — most of his fish and seafood imports are not farm raised either, he said; the blue point oysters hail from James River, Va., and the shrimp comes from Mexico.
Reynoso’s father, Pablo Sr., is the owner of Mesa dining staple The Seafood Market and Restaurant. Pablo Jr. purchases fresh seafood from his father’s market on Baseline Road near Val Vista Drive.
“We’re originally from California,” Reynoso said. “I’m like, ‘Why can’t we do a fish taco place like they do in California, and bring it here to Arizona?’ Let’s bring that vibe out here.”
He said with his beach atmosphere comes homemade microbrews out of California, such as Mission Brewery out of San Diego’s Mission Bay and Left Coast Brewery from up the Orange County coast in San Clemente.
With his theme, the slogan on his menu reminds diners: “Coastal. Not Cowboy...”
Reynoso and his counterparts at Joyride, including Upward Projects development director and partner Tony Demarce, embrace their restaurants’ differences.
Demarce added the variety of places to dine downtown is growing, and his company welcomes it. Competition between local restaurants “plays well for everyone” rather than shuttering business windows or creating a secular customer base.
“I think the more restaurants that are in the same area gives the community more reason to stay, gives them more options,” said Demarce, whose company also owns Postino East and a host of other restaurants in Phoenix. “So I see everybody just getting busier by the more restaurants that we have down here.”
And with about 220,000 residents and an average annual income of more than $81,000, according to the Town of Gilbert website, options for diners to spend their dollars within the once “hay capital of the world” isn’t a bad thing, according to local leaders.
Gilbert Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Tilque, for one, agreed that local restaurants value “healthy competition” and that diners prefer having a selection.
That selection now includes two options — Joyride Taco House and its Upward Projects sibling, Postino East winecafe — on the long-troubled northwest corner of Page Avenue and Gilbert Road.
Tilque, who has been with the Gilbert Chamber for 18 years, said a reason businesses have failed in the past decade at the former “GrainBelt building,” is because occupying such a large space is difficult to maintain.
That’s part of why Upward Projects decided to renovate the building, dividing it and making a home for both Postino and Joyride.
“What we find, especially in the restaurant business, is that — and a lot of times even in retail — when you have good restaurants across the street and in the same area it creates a synergy,” Tilque said.
Corey, a junior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact him at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.