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This Sonoran-Style East Bay Taco Destination Has Shut Down After Operating Without Permits

Plus, the Mission has another natural wine bar as of today, June 16, and more Bay Area food news

Lena Park
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

One of the best taco spots in the East Bay has closed after the business owner says the local health department issued a warning about operating without the necessary permits. SFGATE reports that Tacos Mama Cuca owner Maria Marquez received a warning after someone tipped off the Alameda County Department of Environmental Health about the taco operation. That department forwarded the case to a zoning building inspector for Oakland’s Planning and Building Department, who confirmed to the outlet that there’s an “ongoing investigation.”

Tacos Mama Cuca launched in 2019 as a tortilla business out of Marquez’s home, but in 2022, she and her husband expanded into a taco stand at 8928 Plymouth Street in East Oakland — and quickly earned attention for the hefty Sonoran-style tacos loaded with asada, a grilled Anaheim chile, queso fundido, and frijoles puercos. Marquez didn’t deny to SFGATE that she was operating the stand without permits; she was “trying to save up enough money to be able to buy or rent a food truck and bring her business above-board.” She hopes to launch a GoFundMe at some point to help find the business a new home.

The Mission is getting (another) natural wine bar

The Chronicle has the official opening date for Bar Gemini, the latest natural wine bar to join the crowded scene in the Mission. It’ll debut on June 16 at 2845 18th Street with a menu that includes “glasses of lively ‘zero-zero’ wines with bar food from the chef at a nearby Michelin-recognized restaurant.” Chef Brandon Rice of Ernest is behind the menu, which includes “olives marinated in Japanese chili garlic sauce, cacio e pepe deviled eggs showered in grated parmesan, and marinated Rancho Gordo gigante beans slowly cooked until creamy and punched up with lemon, fennel, and roasted garlic.”

There’s a big Persian-Mexican restaurant and lounge coming to SoMa

Movida will move into the former Lord George space at 555 Second Street in SoMa, the Chronicle reports. It’s a two-level restaurant and lounge from first-time restaurant owner Bobby Marhamat, “who is half-Persian and half-Italian, but was raised in his family’s Mexican restaurants in Nebraska.” Expected to open in mid-July, the restaurant will offer a menu including dishes such as “saffron chile relleno stuffed with rice, lamb, tomato, parsley, cilantro, and Queso Oaxaca” with cocktails from Carlo Splendorini, also behind downtown’s Bar Sprezzatura.

Sacramento Chinese restaurant destroyed in a fire

Longstanding Sacramento Chinese restaurant Hong Kong Islander, located at 5675 Freeport Boulevard, has been closed since mid-April after a fire destroyed half of the restaurant. The Sacramento Bee reports that surveillance video shows someone intentionally setting the fire, and the business owners now worry they’ll never be able to reopen due to the lack of income while the restaurant sits empty; they anticipate it will take one to two years to repair the building.

New Sicilian gelato spot now scooping in the Mission

Hila opened earlier this spring at 951 Valencia Street in the former Xanath space and specializes in Sicilian-style gelato served at -14 °Celsius, per Mission Local.