Since the Bunkhouse Saloon was renovated and reopened in 2014—and then closed and reopened again in 2015—different forms of bar food have been produced from its kitchen but nothing has caught on, culinarily speaking. The Downtown spot will probably always be known first and foremost as a place for live music, but the current operators want something more significant to come out of that kitchen.
That’s where Josh Clark comes in. The owner of the Goodwich, a sandwich shop that started out of a kiosk in front of Dino’s on Las Vegas Boulevard and five months ago expanded into a larger, permanent home at the Soho Lofts, is taking over that kitchen and creating a new food concept: Awful Tacos.
“We were messing around with different names and ideas, something riskier and edgier, and we [were thinking] about how every traditional taco concept does a lot of offal cuts like brain, tripe and tongue,” Clark says. “Then my sous chef Mike Rubinstein said, ‘What if we name it Awful Tacos?’ We thought it was funny, a nice contrast to Goodwich and also that double meaning. Either it’s going to be a lot of fun or one of the dumbest ideas ever. We understand it’s ridiculous, but we’ve embraced it.”
Munching on tacos filled with duck heart al pastor or sweetbreads with an icy beer at the Bunkhouse’s campground-ish backyard doesn’t sound like a dumb idea to us. It sounds kinda perfect. “We will do tongue and those things but also very approachable items,” says Clark. “We think we can draw a crowd [with food] and create another specific reason to go there. We can do as good a sandwich or taco as anybody, but there has to be a theme to it, a reason to do it.”
Clark is working with Bunkhouse management Jillian Tedrow and Ryan Pardey to come up with different collaborative event ideas, like beer tastings or outdoor football watching parties, that can be fueled by Awful Tacos but also help grow the Bunkhouse audience. “The No. 1 goal is to get more people in the door, because it is such a great space,” Clark says.
One of Clark's new ideas was inspired by Goodwich's former kiosk home. Clark had planned to use the street-side kitchen as a sort of local restaurant incubator (chef Justin Kingsley Hall and his SLO-Boy Food were the guinea pigs), and though the kiosk is now home to the unrelated Pepito’s sandwich shop, Clark says he's not giving up on the concept of showcasing his fellow local chefs. He wants to offer up the Bunkhouse kitchen on a weekly basis—on Tuesdays, when the Bunkhouse is normally closed—to various chefs for special dinner events. “[The same way] you have a DJ or a band schedule, we want to use local chef talent to sell tickets to chef events” he says.
Clark also hopes the taco shop can become popular enough to open for lunch.
Awful Tacos is planning a grand opening at the Bunkhouse the first week of October but will likely be serving food there earlier, so stay tuned.