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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024

City Tacos Comes to Ocean Beach to Play

RESTAURANTS: Playground Concept Provides Community Gathering Area

Gerry Torres promised something different at his latest City Tacos restaurant in Ocean Beach.

For starters, it’s not just a restaurant, but a 10,000-square-foot playground with all sorts of toys for people to play with and places to just hang out in the shade.

Gerry Torres
City Tacos

“This location is going to be something completely different from what we’ve been doing in the past,” Torres said. “I believe in giving people a little bit more for their money, a little bit more as far as attention is concerned, a little bit more of space.”

The Ocean Beach Playground, as Torres calls it, includes a remodeled van that a local small business can lease as a temporary brick-and-mortar shop, a coffee trailer, a flower shop and a City Tacos restaurant with indoor seating for about 50 people and outdoor seating for 50 more.

“We’re trying to convert what was an asphalt parking lot into something that the community can use and enjoy,” Torres said, adding that he spent about $350,000 on the project.

Since Torres opened his first City Tacos restaurant in 2014, the company has expanded with restaurants in North Park, Encinitas, La Mesa, Sorrento Valley, Pacific Beach, Petco Park, and East Village in San Diego County, and at USC Village in Los Angeles.

“We basically open one a year and have been doing so since our inception,”
Torres said.

Community Hub

City Tacos has consistently been given top ratings by foodies as one of the best Mexican restaurant outlets in San Diego, and in 2022, City Tacos reached the enviable position of having sold a total of 3 million tacos at its original restaurant in North Park.

The latest venture is the playground at 4896 Voltaire St. at the northwest corner of Cable Street, which Torres said is ready to open pending a gas line hookup from San Diego Gas & Electric.

The playground will include a variety of games, including a giant chess board, a very large Jenga game, Connect 4, checkers, cornhole boards, foosball tables, and bocce ball.

A shaded courtyard has picnic tables, lounges, fire pits, and bar rail seating.

Torres said that he wants the playground to become a hub of Ocean Beach, “a place that’s fun and exciting and different from what’s out there and keep the community values.”

“It’s a great community, it’s very dog friendly, it’s young families, it’s lively,” Torres said. “My intent is to give those young families the opportunity to play with their kids, kind of get them away from technology. This all comes from my family experience. I have a 12-year-old kid that loves playing video games. We’re all looking for that wholesome, good time with family.”

The site had been used for a Tiki Port coffee kiosk that Torres has renovated.

“I transformed it into something that was visually appealing,” Torres said.

Also transformed was the 1972 van, which was redone by California Westy’s, a company owned by Torres brother, Cesar Torres, that specializes in remodeling Volkswagen vans.

The van has become the Crib, that Torres said is a retail shop on wheels for community craft makers to sell their wares in the playground.

“It’s actually going to be a storefront for merchants,” Torres said, adding that he got the idea from seeing people selling crafts at farmer’s markets.

For $20 a day, someone can rent the space.

“It’s kind of a way for City Tacos to give someone else the opportunity that I was given,” Torres said. “I have candle makers, bracelet makers and a lot of people interested in this space. It’s sort of like a crafts fair, but it’s an ever-changing crafts fair. People can have the storefront that they’ve been dreaming of.”

Decorating the playground are 20 murals, most of which were done by local artists, with the exception of one painted by students at Ocean Beach Elementary School.

Torres said community support for the playground “has been very impressive.”

More to Come

A native of Mexico, Torres moved to San Diego in 1992 and became a U.S. citizen in 2022.

He was the co-owner of an Italian restaurant in La Mesa.

Torres said he opened his first City Tacos restaurant because he wanted to give diners a taste of something different.

“There were a lot of taco shops, but all the taco shops had the same ingredients served in a different manner,” Torres said. “Their menus were huge, but it was basically the same thing over, and over again.”

Tacos and other dishes were pretty much the same.

Partnering with a classically trained chef, Eduardo Baez, Torres said City Taco developed a menu with tacos that used cream sauces and aioli and Italian ingredients.

Torres said he plans to capitalize on that winning formula to open more City Taco outlets throughout California.

“I want to go all the way to San Francisco via the (Route) 101 and set up in most of the coastal communities like Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara and all those,” Torres said.

City Tacos

Founded: 2014
Headquarters: North Park
Founder: Gerald “Gerry” Torres
Business: Restaurant
Number of employees: 75
Website: www.citytacos123.com
Contact:  619-296-2303
Notable: Originally from Mexico, City Tacos founder Gerry Torres moved to San Diego in 1992 and became a U.S. citizen in 2022, the same year that City Tacos sold its one millionth taco at its original restaurant in North Park.


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