Earlier this year North Beach welcomed the latest outpost of legendary Mission burrito purveyor El Farolito, but the restaurant’s famously enormous burritos aren’t the only fresh Mexican food options in the neighborhood. North Beach Cantina is also easing into a beachy space just a block off Columbus Avenue, bringing with it a menu of tacos, burritos, and margaritas. The restaurant is now open serving happy hour and dinner from 4 p.m. yp 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with plans to expand hours — to include late-night dining — down the line.
The restaurant has ties to a handful of other popular neighborhood Mexican restaurants around the city, including Outer Sunset’s Underdogs Too, Inner Sunset’s Underdogs Tres, Underdogs Cantina near Oracle Park, Cow Hollow’s Tacko, and the San Benito House down in Half Moon Bay. Managing partner Chris Cheeseman explains the team behind North Beach Cantina includes a number of industry pros: Doug Marschke, Luis Cupul, and Gabe Erhartic, who collectively own and operate about a dozen Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area. “It’s one big taco syndicate,” Cheeseman jokes, adding on a more serious note, “it’s kind of a big network, with a lot a collective experience.”
As diners familiar with any of those aforementioned sibling restaurants might assume, the North Beach Cantina menu aims for wide appeal spanning everything from tacos, burritos, and flautas to salads, burgers, and chili cheese nachos. Cheeseman says the goal is to create a space where diners can get an affordable, high-quality meal. “In the Bay Area there’s no shortage of your standard taqueria,” Cheeseman says, adding there are also plenty of higher-end restaurants that can feel out of reach for a casual mid-week dinner. “There’s not a lot of people that kind of operate in the middle,” he says. North Beach Cantina hopes to fill that niche with all menu items priced below $20 and a menu that still stars quality ingredients like Snake River Farms American wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork, antibiotic-free chicken, and wild-caught gulf shrimp.
The Stockton Street restaurant space previously housed the catering hub and retail location of San Francisco-based Mexican chain Tacolicious, which shuttered after Memorial Day weekend. Cheeseman says that because the restaurant included a large downstairs prep kitchen, it made it the perfect opportunity for the owners to expand into North Beach. During the pandemic, Cheeseman and partners began preparing and delivering hundreds of meals a day to supportive housing properties through a partnership with Episcopal Community Services. Now they’re continuing to cook and deliver meals to people experiencing homelessness out of the North Beach Cantina space.
Since Tacolicious remodeled the restaurant space in 2013, Cheeseman says the partners didn’t need to do much before moving in. The cosmetic changes included installing reclaimed wood paneling on the walls, upgrading the lighting, and commissioning hand-painted murals and signage around the dining room. In the coming weeks and months, Cheeseman says they hope to expand to seven days a week and add longer hours. They’re also working on adding promotions for things like Taco Tuesday — think, discounted drinks — to help make the restaurant a true neighborhood hangout. “I love North Beach,” Cheeseman says. “I’ve always loved North Beach.”
North Beach Cantina (1548 Stockton Street) is open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.