El Garage flourishes from humble roots to downtown Richmond digs

El Garage flourishes from humble roots to downtown Richmond digs
El Garage is set to open at 1428 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond. (Photos courtesy of El Garage)

By Kathy Chouteau

One of the Bay Area’s most anticipated restaurant openings of 2020 has grown from humble roots selling irresistible quesabirria tacos out of a garage on Garvin Ave. to now being on the verge of opening a brick and mortar space downtown.

El Garage, a labor of love by the Montano family—including two sisters, their parents and a chef boyfriend—will be moving its operations from a garage to a new restaurant space at 1428 Macdonald Ave., the former home of Your Way Pizza. Plans are for a soft opening sometime during July and a grand opening in August, per co-owner Viviana Montano.

While the menu is still being developed, Montano said that it’s going to feature “authentic Mexican street food” and that they will definitely offer their quesabirria taco, along with other relevant selections and daily specials. Amid the COVID-19 climate, current plans are for El Garage to open with to-go service at first.

Eventually, Montano said that the family will add beer and wine service, as well as an arcade. “It will be a tap room kind of place with music; we want to make it a really fun spot,” she said.

As its name suggests, “El Garage” is a tip of the hat to the restaurant’s Richmond roots. It all started when the Montano family was looking for a way to help pay the mortgage on their newly purchased home on Garvin. The sisters came up with the idea of a pop-up food operation, and during their research, noticed that there was a dearth of birria tacos being sold locally.

“It was kind of like an LA thing,” Montano said of the birria tacos. “My sister thought that maybe we would be able to make some of those because my mom is known for her really good birria.” The sisters got to work researching birria taco recipes online and combined it with their mother’s recipe to create El Garage’s version of a quesabirria taco.

The sisters first opened their pop-up—which only sold the quesabirria tacos—out of their garage on a Saturday in late February 2019. Just through walk-by traffic and word-of-mouth, they sold out that very first day.

Word quickly spread about El Garage on social media, especially on Instagram and Twitter, where they gained a reputation as a “secret restaurant” worthy of a visit from local foodies. The line for their quesbirria tacos frequently stretched from their garage down their driveway and they regularly sold out. Eventually, the sisters quit their jobs and the family began offering their fare on both weekend days, doing pop-ups at other locations and communicating their plans with customers via Instagram.

“It was a little taco stand, but then it just started growing and growing and it was amazing,” said Montano of El Garage’s exponential growth.

So, how does it make Montano feel to go from serving tacos out of a garage to now opening a restaurant? “It feels great because it just goes to show when you really want something to happen, you can make it happen, you know, and all you need to do is start and just keep going.”

The Standard will keep the community updated on El Garage’s specific soft and grand opening dates, but in the meantime, learn more about the restaurant at @el_gaaarage on Instagram and on Facebook.