Two Harbors' summers got a little spicier with the arrival of a seasonal Mexican restaurant Friday, June 1.
5th Street Tacos was expected to open for the summer Friday morning at the corner of Fifth Street and Seventh Avenue. It offers tacos, burritos, salads and more with a variety of meats and toppings. The small, stand-style establishment has a few tables outside for customers to sit and eat. Its hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the end of October.
Owner Chris Schweiger had operated the Java Express drive-thru coffee shop in the same building for more than 10 years, but decided this year it was time "to change things up."
"It was something I've always wanted to do and I had the opportunity to start over and open it up as a taco shop," he said. "It was just something in the back of my mind that I've always wanted to do."
Throughout the spring, Schweiger has worked to remodel the small structure to offer tacos, burritos and more instead of coffee.
He was still putting the finishing touches on the interior of the building Thursday evening before its opening. A stove was hooked up last week. Instead of coffee pots and syrups, there is now a serving line for quick access to the meats and toppings for the three employees Schweiger is training for the summer season.
Since 5th Street will not be a drive-thru restaurant like Java Express, Schweiger also added a few more picnic tables for diners to enjoy their food. He hopes to eventually expand the parking lot to accommodate more cars.
Schweiger has been working with Sarah Hamilton of Trail Center Lodge on the Gunflint Trail to perfect the recipes for his new venture. 5th Street plans to offer beef, chicken, chorizo and even tofu along with a couple of salsas when it opens. Instead of offering a wide variety of menu items, Schweiger said he is keeping the menu small to focus on providing quality fare instead of a potentially unwieldy array of options.
"I was talking to Sarah and she just said, 'Keep your menu simple and good,'" Schweiger said. "We can always add on next year if there's something we need, like fish. When you go into a restaurant and they have a small menu, here are your choices.
"To me, that's a great way to run your restaurant," he said.
5th Street Tacos won't have fountain sodas, but will instead sell a variety of Jarritos Mexican soda as well as Mexican Coke sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. In addition, all ingredients at 5th Street Tacos will be fresh.
Schweiger hopes 5th Street will be an attractive option for locals looking for a quick snack and tourists seeking a pitstop on their way up the North Shore during the summer and fall.
"Tacos are kind of a refreshing snack," he said. "It can be lunch or a late snack."