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Food & Drink

Taco Bamba set to open first Richmond location at Willow Lawn Tuesday

Doors will open on June 4 at 9am, and the first 100 guests to order in person at the restaurant will be rewarded with a free taco a week for a year. 

Trevor Dickerson



Last week, Chef Victor Albisu, a James Beard-nominated chef based in the Washington, D.C. metro area, announced a June 4 opening date for Taco Bamba’s first Richmond location. Taco Bamba’s fifteenth overall restaurant will open at 1601 Willow Lawn Dr., in the Willow Lawn shopping center, with a seasonal patio and full-service bar. Like all Taco Bambas, Willow Lawn’s menu and design were created exclusively for the neighborhood, and the building features original artwork, including a large stylized Richmond skyline.

Doors will open on June 4 at 9am, and the first 100 guests to order in person at the restaurant will be rewarded with a free taco a week for a year.

“Richmond has been asking for a Taco Bamba for years, and we’re thrilled to bring our fifteenth location to the state capital,” Albisu said. “We always build our locations around the neighborhoods we are opening in, and being able to tap into Richmond’s vibrant energy and unique vibe has been really fun.

Born out of a modest Northern Virginia strip mall in 2013, Taco Bamba started as a side project to Albisu’s fine dining headliner, a lux downtown South American grill. But the side project quickly became the fan favorite, and Albisu’s scrappy, irreverent, upstart taqueria now boasts 15 stops across four states and the District of Columbia. As a chef and restaurateur, Albisu is allergic to repetition and cliche, so every Taco Bamba that opens boasts a menu of unique items original to that location. The food and design foundations might remain the same, and any fan of the brand will find their traditional favorites, but the creative highlights, on the plate and the walls, are all original, unique to the new spot and not to be repeated.

The Menu

Taco Bamba has built a loyal following through wildly creative original menu items generously portioned and approachably priced. The team behind the cuisine is an all-star lineup of trained chefs with fine dining backgrounds, honoring traditional flavors and cooking methods while diverging from taco conventions with memorable culinary mashups. Taco Bamba’s most creative diversions are original to each store, and Taco Bamba fans are known to travel far and wide to try each menu’s unique offerings.

At the Willow Lawn location, these will include the Scott’s Addiction, featuring local beer-braised brisket, sweet potato fries, caramelized onion, and Richmond white barbecue sauce in a corn tortilla. The Herky Jerky taco dresses jerk-marinated pork with green chile sauce and coconut crema. The Chanho in a Pancho fills taquitos with hot dogs and tops them with sweet chili relish and mustard. El Pimento empanadas are filled with pimento cheese and roasted jalapeño, while River City Calamari is topped with tajin spice and candied chilis. The Porchy’s quesadilla is stuffed with diablo chicken, and cheddar cheese, and comes with blue cheese dip. Vegetarians can indulge in the fan-favorite Spicy ‘Shroom taco with chipotle portobellos, grilled corn, cotija cheese, and hearts of palm, as well as the Chirley Maclaine, a torta containing avocado, cucumber, onions, pepper, and garlic herb cream cheese.

All tacos can be ordered dirty-style, the tortilla dressed with seared cheese and chili sauce before filling, or clean-style, setting aside the tortilla in favor of a fresh and crisp cabbage cup. Beyond tacos, each location boasts original empanadas, ceviches, quesadillas, sopes, and nachos, in addition to Mexican street food favorites like elotes.

Bar Program

Each Taco Bamba also offers a full bar program, giving the menu’s bold Mexican flavors a partner in agave-based cocktails that are also unique to the location. Richmond diners can order the I Know The Owner, with amaro Montenegro, a Coke reduction, cigar bitters, and a choice of whiskey or mezcal. The Pink Eye builds on the classic combination of tequila and grapefruit juice with Aperol and lime. It’s Not a Lassie goes double smoke with mezcal and scotch, then cools it down by adding mango-yogurt, cardamom, and lime.

The Space

Located in the Willow Lawn Shopping Center, Taco Bamba’s first Richmond stop will have tables and bar seating in a 2,400-square-foot-space and include a seasonal patio. Table seating will be serviced from a carryout counter, while the bar will offer full service to accompany the creative list of mezcal and tequila cocktails. While a signature red and black design aesthetic carries over to every location, each is reimagined with original artistic flourishes. Richmond will be home to two massive designs by artist Alexa Indriolo: Inside, a stylized depiction of the Richmond skyline will fill a wall overlooking the dining room, while an external wall facing West Broad Street will announce Taco Bamba’s presence with a bold black-and-white mural featuring the restaurant’s “Battle Rooster” mascot.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.