It wasn’t even a conventional dinner hour, and the new taqueria on East Superior Street had a steady flow of customers on a Tuesday afternoon. Tacos Tacos Tacos, in the space that formerly held Martha’s Daughter and before that Coney Island, is operating with a truncated version of the menu — which is posted on a blackboard on its western wall.

“I’m really trying to get authentic and give a good quality taco,” Robert Giuliani said soon after returning from Mexico, where he spent part of the past year.

Much of his time back in Duluth has involved sourcing ingredients that align with his visions of a traditional taqueria.

Tacos Tacos Tacos is among a handful of new options cropping up this spring in Duluth — a mix that includes a long-hinted-at pizza chain and a food truck offering a playful take on hot dogs.

Tacos Tacos Tacos, in the old Coney Island location at 107 E. Superior St., was serving a limited menu on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. The taqueria offers a variety of street tacos and house favorites. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Tacos Tacos Tacos, in the old Coney Island location at 107 E. Superior St., was serving a limited menu on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. The taqueria offers a variety of street tacos and house favorites. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

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John Donahue and Laurel Sanders consider the menu options at Tacos Tacos Tacos on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
John Donahue and Laurel Sanders consider the menu options at Tacos Tacos Tacos on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Tacos Tacos Tacos, at 107 E. Superior Street, is set up in a long rectangular space decorated with images of street tacos, food prep and produce. There is a takeout window in the back end of the shop for ordering and pickup.

There are street tacos, including the house specialty al pastor, in addition to chorizo and arrachera, and house favorites like tortas and quesadillas.

The traffic seems consistent: Last week, Tacos Tacos Tacos reported on Facebook that it had sold out and closed shop earlier than planned.

Updawg is a food truck specializing in hotdogs, like one that pays homage to the japapeno popper. The owners plan to open in June. (Photo courtesy of Updawg)
Updawg is a food truck specializing in hotdogs, like one that pays homage to the japapeno popper. The owners plan to open in June. (Photo courtesy of Updawg)

UpDawg: A hot dog as a canvas

David Fitch, co-owner of a hot dog-centric food truck with plans to start serving in June, is most excited, right now, about the Big Poppa Dog. It’s a classic all-beef dog on a toasted bun with jalapeno cream cheese, he said, with parmesan bread crumbs, shredded cheddar and jalapenos.

“And chipotle ranch,” added Cory Netland, who is also behind UpDawg.

“That I could eat out of a five-gallon bucket,” Fitch said and laughed.

The duo, who met while in marching band at the University of Minnesota Duluth, have been regulars in the food service industry with backgrounds at a handful of restaurants.

This interest in hot dogs, for Netland, goes back to the classic images of New York City street vendors. As the pandemic went on, the idea to start their own hot-dog business became real — with the idea of prioritizing fun, they said.

The plan is to use the hot dog as a canvas to create clever takes — working as much as possible from scratch and from local vendors.

“It’s something we enjoy throwing different ingredients on,” Fitch said. “It’s easy to be creative with.”

UpDawg’s keepers said they plan to set up at local breweries, events and festivals throughout the summer.

Doc Witherspoon's Soul Food Shack, which tested a few pop-ups in the past year, will open in April. (File / News Tribune)
Doc Witherspoon's Soul Food Shack, which tested a few pop-ups in the past year, will open in April. (File / News Tribune)

Doc Witherspoon’s Soul Food Shack: For the soul

A new soul food restaurant with a touch of nostalgia for food-people connection of the late Rev. Sylvester Witherspoon, AKA Doc, is scheduled to open April 6 at 319 W. First Street — formerly Oriental House II.

Stephan Witherspoon, a community activist, is behind this restaurant while his brother, Solomon Witherspoon, has Spoons Bar & Grill, which opened within the past year in Lincoln Park.

Stephan Witherspoon, who describes the new location as “prime time,” is planning on digging into his father’s old recipes for the soul food he grew up with, in addition to throwing in Asian and Italian influences with a Northern Minnesota touch.

Witherspoon first introduced his foods during a pop-up event featuring fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing, cornbread and sweet potato pie for dessert.

The food event sold out before it happened and drew a line of cars to the pickup point.

In addition to serving food, Witherspoon plans to make this a first-stop resume builder for 17- to 24-year-olds in the community looking to learn about the industry.

“Make sure that we can give other folks opportunities,” he said.