snap taco
Dining Reviews

New-School Snap Taco Takes Over Old Assembly Space

The team behind Penny Ice Creamery and Assembly turns to tacos

Tacos for the Instagram crowd at Snap Taco. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

“Eat Tacos, Be Happy,” insists the menu at Snap Taco, downtown’s frenetic new outpost for “New School tacos.”

The former Assembly space on Pacific Avenue is now home to hipster-industrial booths, a slender banquette for duo diners and a stable of group-friendly roundtops balanced on revamped metal drums. From the colorful facade, I expected all high-wattage, Baja-inspired tones inside. There are occasional painted stripes and leafy palms, but the design is filtered through a surprisingly muted north-of-the-border aesthetic, with a bit of Boardwalk kitsch thrown in.

The concept wants to be easy: you step up to the front counter, order, pay, and wait for a text to pick up your order. Meanwhile, you can grab a seat near the Instagram-friendly red neon “Tacos” sign or under the outdoor patio’s tin roof and debate whether it’s late enough for one of those good-looking cocktails from the bar. At lunch last week, we ordered the day’s special citrus-honey gingerade ($4) and wow, was it delicious! Great with Snap’s complimentary warm chips and citrusy-but-unexciting salsa.

The four tacos we’d ordered arrived nestled tightly in a metal tray. It was hard to tell which was which, and to keep the guts from spilling out. The salsa verde ($4.50) we ordered was quite good, a terrific accent. Two of the street-sized tacos (at least) are needed for an actual meal, which along with a la carte salsa, refried beans and a soda or Verve coffee will run $20 or more.

The Baja-style fish taco ($4.95) was delicious with its succulent interior, crisp batter, guajillo chile salsa, black beans, and cabbage. This is a good taco, as is the Tiki BBQ Pork taco ($3.95) with its zippy pineapple salsa. Less interesting, though adequately executed, were the ground beef Old School Taco ($3.95) and Carne Asada ($3.95) with pickled red onion, cilantro and cabbage.

For locals looking for a change of pace, out-of-towners seeking accessible options and selfie addicts, Snap Taco is one of a new wave of fast-casual restaurants paring down the costs and formality of table service dining, and is the latest offering from the entrepreneurs behind Penny Ice Creamery, the Picnic Basket and the late full-service Assembly.

I look forward to future meals at Snap Taco when the new restaurant disorientation and menu overload have died down—five exceptional tacos, rather than 10 scattered options. Snap’s menu is loaded with items that are vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Seating verges on chaotic, but that can be eased. The colors could also be kicked up a notch to amplify the ambiance—or maybe after a few cocktails everything looks brighter.

Snap Taco, 1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Open daily 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. with regular food and drink specials.

Pop-Up Breakfasts

Summer means al fresco Farmers Market breakfasts—wildly popular and selling out fast!

On June 29, Kenny Woods of 1440 Multiversity will cook at the Scotts Valley Market ($45). On July 20, Gema Cruz of Gabriella Cafe welcomes breakfasters at the Westside Market ($45). On Aug. 10, Katherine Stern (longtime La Posta chef) will get your Westside morning started with tomato and roasted corn salad, pork loin and potato biscuits ($45), and Sept. 14 Kendra Baker of Penny Ice Creamery cooks at Westside Market ($75). Breakfast starts at 10 a.m.

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