Pilo’s Street Tacos is expanding, with a new restaurant and tequila garden that opens this week in Wynwood.
The new concept will celebrate its grand opening on Friday, February 26, combining is authentic, fast-casual Mexican menu with an outdoor gathering space — the tequila garden.
Pilo’s Tequila Garden is founder Derek Gonzalez's second venture. His popular Brickell restaurant, open for lunch and dinner and into the night, offers street tacos and other late-night fare. Guests can choose seated service or order from the quick-service counter.
The focal point of the Wynwood restaurant will be the tequila garden, part of the 5,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor footprint that will pour a variety of tequilas and mezcals, including premium selections.
In the evening, the outdoor space will transform into a nightlife venue, with frequent events hosted by name artists and live and DJ performances. The garden is equipped with two full-service bars, a retractable roof, VIP booths, and stadium seating, along with a state-of-the-art DJ booth inside what Gonzalez describes as "Wynwood’s only treehouse."
Gonzalez says the new flagship isn't only about expanding the brand's presence. Future growth plans — which call for multiple locations both nationwide and overseas — will provide jobs for Miami’s special-needs community.
"Moving forward, our goal is to become the largest employer of people with special needs — not just in Miami, but nationwide," Gonzalez says. "It's a segment of the population that for too long has been undervalued and underemployed."
Since opening its first location in Brickell, Pilo’s Street Tacos operated as a mission-based company that strives to empower and hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The restaurant partners with organizations such as Gigi’s Playhouse, Best Buddies, and Our Pride Academy as part of its employment strategy.
Gonzalez says his mission was inspired by his Aunt Lupita, who nicknamed everyone "Pilo" owing to a speech impairment. Since its inception, the restaurateur has pledged to keep his aunt's memory alive through positive change.
"That's why, when I started Pilo's, I decided that I am not just going to do this half-assed, I'm going all-in," says Gonzalez. "Moving forward, the garden is something that is inclusive for everyone. It's a cool place, and everyone can congregate, and it pays homage to the outdoor spaces I remember visiting when I was a kid in Mexico City."
One of the bars at Pilo’s displays Mexican sculptures and paintings by local and international artists Giuseppe Ferlito, Jordi Molla, Domingo Zapata, Vic Garcia, and Mariela Nunez. The works will be available for purchase, and a portion of the sales will benefit the Miami branch of Gigi’s Playhouse, which provides free therapeutic and educational resources and support for people with Down Syndrome and their families.
As for food, expect the same Pilo's favorites, from street-style tacos to late-night bites. Gonzalez says the recipes are prepared are made using ingredients imported from Mexico.
"When I opened Pilo's, I wanted to offer Miami really good tacos," he says. "For me, nothing here was what I remembered from Mexico, and I didn't want to spend $35 for tacos every time I went out. My goal was to offer something of value. Whether you come for lunch, dinner, or late-night experience, you wouldn't break the bank."
Signature dishes include "El Jefe," a cheese chicharrón topped with cilantro; and "El Pescadito" tacos — grilled or beer-battered fish with red cabbage, pineapple pico de gallo, and smoked chipotle mayo on flour tortillas); vegetarian-friendly "El Tizando" tacos (mushrooms al pastor, white onions, cilantro, and pineapple on corn tortillas). Prices range from $3.50 for chips and salsa to $13 for a burrito bowl entrée, and $6.50 and $9.50 for tacos (two per order).
Don't miss the signature "La Pilo" tacos, served two per order for $7.50. Gonzalez says they evoke memories of his favorite meal when he went to the taquerias in Mexico City with his grandmother. He promises the combination of pork al pastor, pineapple, white onions, and cilantro served on corn tortilla are as close to the real deal as you'll get in Miami.
"The first thing I'd do, as soon as I got off the plane, was eat about 25 tacos al pastor," the restaurateur recalls . "It's one of my strongest memories as a kid visiting Mexico City."
Pilo's Tequila Garden.158 NW 24th St., Miami; open Monday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight; pilostacos.com.
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