North Beach Cantina is Big Bay Area’s Newest ‘Taco Syndicate’ Mexican Restaurant

Earlier this year, North Beach was home to the latest outpost of legendary burrito purveyor Mission El Farolito, but the restaurant’s famously huge burritos aren’t the only fresh Mexican cuisine options in the neighborhood. North Beach Cantina is also moving into a beach space a block off Columbus Avenue, bringing with it a menu of tacos, burritos and margaritas. The restaurant is now open and serves happy hour and dinner from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with plans to expand the hours — to include late-night dining — down the line.

The restaurant has ties to a handful of other popular Mexican restaurants in the city’s neighborhood, including Outer Sunset’s Underdogs Too, Inner Sunset’s Underdogs Tres, Underdogs Cantina near Oracle Park, Cow Hollow’s Tacko, and San Benito’s House in Half Moon Bay. Managing Partner Chris Cheeseman explains that the team behind North Beach Cantina includes a number of industry professionals: Doug Marschke, Luis Cupul and Gabe Erhartic, who collectively own and operate a dozen Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area. “It’s a big taco syndicate,” Cheeseman jokes, adding on a more serious note, “it’s kind of a big network, with a lot of collective experience.”

North beach canteen

As diners familiar with any of these aforementioned sister restaurants might surmise, North Beach Cantina’s menu aims for broad appeal covering everything from tacos, burritos and flautas to salads, burgers and chili cheese nachos. Cheeseman says the goal is to create a space where diners can get an affordable, high-quality meal. “There’s no shortage of the standard taqueria in the Bay Area,” says Cheeseman, adding that there are also plenty of upscale restaurants that might seem out of reach for casual midweek dining. “There aren’t a lot of people operating in the middle,” he says. North Beach Cantina hopes to fill that niche with all menu items under $20 and a menu that still features quality ingredients like Snake River Farms American Wagyu Beef, Kurobuta Pork, Antibiotic-Free Chicken and Shrimp. savages of the gulf.

The Stockton Street food court previously housed the food hub and retail outlet for San Francisco-based Mexican chain Tacolicious, which closed after Memorial Day weekend. Cheeseman says that because the restaurant included a large prep kitchen on the ground floor, it made it the perfect opportunity for the owners to expand to North Beach. During the pandemic, Cheeseman and its partners began preparing and delivering hundreds of meals a day to supportive housing through a partnership with Episcopal Community Services. Now they continue to cook and deliver meals to homeless people outside the North Beach Cantina space.

Since Tacolicious remodeled the restaurant space in 2013, Cheeseman says the partners didn’t need to do much before moving in. Cosmetic changes included the installation of reclaimed wood panels on the walls, improved lighting, and the commissioning of hand-painted murals and signage around the dining area. In the coming weeks and months, Cheeseman says they hope to move to seven days a week and add longer hours. They’re also working on adding promotions for things like Taco Tuesday — think, discounted drinks — to help make the restaurant a true neighborhood hangout. “I love North Beach,” says Cheeseman. “I’ve always loved North Beach.”

A wall with brightly colored paintings.

North beach canteen

The North Beach Cantina bar.

North beach canteen

A quesadilla with meal and lettuce inside on a metal tray.

North beach canteen

Two tacos with shrimp and cabbage inside.

North beach canteen

An orange colored margarita with a lime wedge garnish.

North beach canteen

Three fried flautas.

North beach canteen

Three small ears of corn on a metal tray.

North beach canteen

A foil-wrapped burrito filled with meat, salsa, and guacamole.

North beach canteen

North beach canteen (1548 Stockton Street) is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

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