Elle Taco, an organic taqueria, is set to open at Dadeland Mall's dining pavilion tomorrow, September 22.
The news is intriguing on many levels. First of all, it signifies that Dadeland Mall is committed to providing its shoppers with culinary experiences that range far outside the normal Auntie Annie's and Cheesecake Factory offerings. The mall is already home to eateries such as Aoki, Balans, Canadian export Earl's, and celebrity-chef-driven Bobby's Burger Palace.
Now, Elle Taco is upping the shopping mecca's culinary game by offering food from a Michelin-starred chef. Derrick Styczek has been tapped as culinary director of the eatery. Rounding out the kitchen are executive chef Andres Torres and chef de cuisine Eloy Balbuena.
Styczek's pedigree is long. The chef received his first Michelin star at Etats-Unis in New York City and his second at Bagatelle in Oslo, Norway. The chef has also worked at Gramercy Tavern and the River Café.
Founder Mike Baccaro says he chose Dadeland Mall as the location for Elle Taco because it "felt like a natural next step for our family-focused company." The restaurateur is thrilled to "become part of the fabric of this vibrant community."
The restaurant, by the way, is very much a family business. Bacarro is partners with his wife Samantha and in-laws Benny and Stacey Shabtai (the Tao Group), and the restaurant is named for his 2-year-old daughter. Bacarro, who owned four taquerias in New York City, decided to change the name when he moved to Miami to be closer to family. "The name is a play on words. It's named after my daughter, but when you say it out loud, it sounds like el taco or the taco."
Bacarro says he tapped Styczek as culinary director after years of friendship. "We met in New York eight years ago when I was a restaurant manager and I approached his table. We became friends outside of work." The restaurateur says that his culinary team is solid. "We have some rapid expansion plans, and without a guy like him, that's not really possible." Bacarro also notes that executive chef Andres Torres is essential for the success of Elle Taco. "He's been with our family for 12 years. Andres comes from Mexico, and these are recipes from his mother and grandmother. He brings the authenticity to Elle."
The restaurant touts its ingredients as "organic, sustainable, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and created from locally sourced ingredients when available." Its seafood consists of line-caught fish and ocean-caught shrimp. Tortillas are handmade from corn and flour. Bacarro says he sources meats from Bush Brothers and produce from Mr. Greens, "the same as Prime One Twelve and Quality Meats."
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Bacarro says he saw an opportunity at Dadeland to capture foot traffic similar to that on a busy Manhattan street. He also wanted to flip the mall food scene on its head. "I want to revolutionize the food hall. You hear that, and it almost has a stigma to it. But we have a Michelin-starred chef. I think there's an area for us to go into all Simon Malls."
Tacos are offered individually and range from $3.25 for the vegetal to $3.95 for the pescado with line-caught mahi-mahi or shrimp. All other tacos cost $3.49 and include al pastor, chorizo, carne asada, pollo, and other varieties.
Elle Taco also offers quesadillas ($8.50), burritos ($8.99), enchiladas ($8.50), and tortas ($7.99) — each filled with a choice of protein (chicken, pork, or steak). Each also has a vegetarian option. The restaurant also offers a kids' meal of a small quesadilla with a choice of protein, rice and beans, and a drink for $5.
Adults, however, will probably opt for some grownup beverages such as sangria ($5.49), micheladas ($5.49), and tequila or mezcal from the large list. Panther Coffee is also available.