Adios, Taco Lobo – Salish Current

rewrite this title Adios, Taco Lobo – Salish Present
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Downtown Mexican restaurant is newest of longtime Bellingham eateries to say goodbye

For the final quarter of a century, 117 West Magnolia Avenue was amongst Bellingham residents’ favourite locations for Mexican delicacies. 

It’s there, at a spot known as Taco Lobo, the place numerous recent tortillas had been made and consumed for the reason that restaurant opened its doorways in 1999. 

However on June 29, Taco Lobo formally held its swan track, closing without end as a part of proprietor Luis Fernando Santos’ retirement. It marks the most recent loss in a sequence of downtown departures for longtime eateries, following Casa Que Pasa’s closure in August 2021 and Rudy’s Pizzeria in 2019. 

Santos, 67, stated his choice to shut Taco Lobo was as a consequence of a number of components. The pandemic years, together with associated will increase in distant work, led to a lower in general gross sales that by no means rebounded to their pre-pandemic ranges, he stated. 

Security issues over unhoused individuals and public drug use additionally didn’t assist enterprise in recent times, he added. Moreover shuttering his restaurant, Santos stated he’ll seemingly promote all the Luther Constructing, a historic 1912 construction, as a part of his retirement plan. 

A path to tortillas

Santos grew up within the Mexican state of Jalisco, and loved his mom’s cooking as a toddler. 

In 1965 his household moved to the USA, settling in California. Santos started coming to Bellingham in 1990 for work within the seafood processing trade, splitting time between right here and Alaska. Whereas working as a processor for Icicle Seafoods in 1994, he misplaced his left hand in a office accident and now wears a prosthetic. 

After the accident, Santos remained in Bellingham, finally leaving the seafood trade with an damage settlement to think about his subsequent profession. Opting out of a possible path as a cab driver, Santos went into the restaurant enterprise and opened Taco Lobo — Spanish translation “Taco Wolf” — in April 1999. 

Chile rellenos and quesadillas had been simply $1.75, in keeping with a Could 1999 Bellingham Herald article. Critiques of the restaurant had been extremely constructive, noting the house-made tortillas and brightly-tiled inside. 

In March 2001, catastrophe struck: an early-morning electrical fireplace gutted the restaurant’s kitchen, broken the remainder of the restaurant and prompted a complete estimated $300,000 in harm to the Luther Constructing. However that October, the restaurant re-opened to an extended line of consumers.

A wolf howls for tacos within the iconic signage of Taco Lobo, the longtime downtown Bellingham eatery which closed its doorways on June 29. (Matt Benoit / Salish Present © 2024)

By February 2004, Santos had a lot enterprise that these lengthy traces stored forming. He introduced plans to double the dimensions of Taco Lobo, occupying an area subsequent door that had beforehand been a tanning salon. The enlargement netted the eatery one other 45 or so seats, and included a wall comprised of a number of arched openings for visibility. Photographs of Pedro Infante — a well-known Mexican singer and actor who died in a 1957 airplane crash — additionally embellished the brand new partitions. 

Through the years, the restaurant was extensively thought of among the many finest Mexican eating places in Bellingham, cited in “better of” competitions in varied publications. In a March 2023 Bellingham Herald ballot of the very best Mexican delicacies in Whatcom County, Taco Lobo took dwelling fourth place honors out of 17 eating places. 

Final lunches

Within the days previous to the restaurant’s closing, many native residents stopped by one final time for his or her favourite bites. 

That included 78-year-old Jane Relin, who stated she’ll miss Taco Lobo’s workers, the scrumptious fish tacos, and the always-alluring chile rellenos. 

“I feel they’ve the very best chile relleno on the town, indubitably,” she stated, including that Taco Lobo’s salsa bar —with as a lot pico de gallo as an individual might want — was additionally a spotlight of eating there. 

Not far-off from Relin’s desk, 42-year-old Blake Trafton sat together with his mom, Beth, and 10-year-old son, Rhys, having fun with their final lunch at Taco Lobo.

“As soon as we heard the information, we needed to make the pilgrimage,” stated Blake. “I’ve been consuming pollo asado right here for 20-plus years.”

As a former Western scholar, Blake stated his choice to frequent Taco Lobo throughout his school days was all the time good economics, as portion sizes ensured he’d get two meals from an entrée. Along with many Saturday meals at Taco Lobo together with his dad and mom, Blake stated he’d additionally had birthday events there 

His son Rhys can also be a longtime fan, consuming rice and beans there for years. 

“Once I was little, I didn’t eat a lot,” Rhys stated. “However after I got here to Taco Lobo, I ate every little thing that was put in entrance of me.”

Santos himself has all the time had a sequence of favourite dishes, together with pollo asado, hen with verde sauce, carnitas and carne en chile — a very spicy dish that introduced some prospects all the best way from Seattle, he stated. 

Along with long-term workers together with Invoice Campbell, Santos’ household has additionally helped him run issues over time. Whereas he and his spouse haven’t any youngsters, a number of of his nephews have labored there, he stated. 

In retirement, Santos stated he plans to stay in Whatcom County, taking extra frequent journeys to Mexico and spending time together with his spouse and their pug, Coco. 

Requested what he’d miss most about Taco Lobo, Santos stated it would undoubtedly be the folks, lots of whom had been frequent guests and pals. 

“I’m gonna miss ’em,” he stated. “I wish to thank them for being loyal prospects.”

By Matt Benoit

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