These days, the news of some non-tradtional Southie bar or restaurant opening is not really news at all.
For some time now, the slow, creeping hand of gentrification and infiltration by the kind of destination spots normally reserved for the South End has made waves into South Boston, and the most recent bandleader of that breed of eatery has been the successful new go-to, Lincoln Tavern and Restaurant on West Broadway.
Until, that is, the team behind Lincoln doubled down on the very stretch of street they occupy by gutting and relaunching the old Pan Asia space (known for its big scorpion bowls and screaming hangovers) as Loco Taqueria and Oyster Bar. Call it an amalgamation of Mexico and the strewn-lights and naked steel, slate, and wood-lined spots of Austin, Texas. If you’re confused, don’t be. Chef Nicholas Dixon, after all, has a plan.
“It’s a Southern California, Baha-style taqueria with creative ceviches, and different oysters and clams,” he says. “We kinda get creative with that whole thing, and we [wanted to] do different flavored ices [for the raw bar items], like Thai basil ice, and a pineapple black pepper ice.”
If the sound of flavored ices on killer mollusks and shellfish sounds like sacrilege, there’s comfort in knowing Nixon is working closely with local providers (Think: Island Creek and Moon Shoal Oysters, and even Seaport staple Georges Bank) for the fish program while nailing down the menu, which utilizes the well-received use of wood fire from Loco’s sister restaurant Lincoln and extends it to everything from the surf to the turf, and the stuff in-between.
“We char a lot of our fruit, and we take those charred fruits to incorporate them into salsas and some of our juices as well,” he says. “With a lot of our tacos you’re going to taste, along with the fresh seafood and the really light meats, you’re gonna get this salsa that’s really fruity, tangy, sweet—a little bit of sour and a little bit of this charred element from the grill.”
“We came up with charring the fruit and incorporating that into some of the sauces and salsas [from Lincoln]. I brought my best one, two, and three guys over here, and we kinda collaborated together and created this really fun, light, fresh menu [for here].”
Some of those light, fresh accents can be attributed to a unique use of a special olive oil that Dixon himself chose, which has won accolades as one of the best olive oils in the country: Katz Organic California Olive Oil out of Napa Valley.
Tim Chatignay, chef de cuisine, is making his mark on the menu as well, notably with his use of pickling, evidenced in the creating of a fried masa (cornmeal dough) with pickled cilantro stems. “We go through so much cilantro over here and we saved all the stems, and he’s really into pickling and vinegars,” says Dixon.
“The kid’s super talented,” he says. “This is the third restaurant he’s worked with me in, and he’s definitely my rock … a huge addition. Now he’s hopefully gonna run the show while we’re here.”
LOCO TAQUERIA AND OYSTER BAR. NOW OPEN. 412 WEST BROADWAY, BOSTON. 617-917-5626.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.