Move, pizza: It’s taco time

Bar Luchador is set to open in the space formerly occupied by Campus Pizza on Washington Avenue in Stadium Village in early August, offering Mexican street food in a Lucha Libre setting.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Bar Luchador is set to open in the space formerly occupied by Campus Pizza on Washington Avenue in Stadium Village in early August, offering Mexican street food in a Lucha Libre setting.

Sadman Rahman

After months of vacancy, a new Mexican bar and restaurant will occupy the Stadium Village space where Campus Pizza once stood. 
 
Bar Luchador will begin dishing out Mexican cuisine and cocktails on Aug. 3. Its owners hope their establishment will offer an authentic and unique dining option for University of Minnesota students.
 
The new restaurant will serve items like Mexican corn avocado toast and authentic tacos, said owner and former Stub and Herbs bartender Angelo Pennacchio. He said the menu is a blend of Mexican street food, West Coast tacos and bar food.
 
“We like a lot of the little hole-in-the-walls on Lake Street to go eat tacos and stuff, so we thought we can bring it here with a bar vibe in a nicer-setting, sit-down restaurant,” he said.
 
The owners, who also include Stub and Herbs owner Josh Zavadil and manager Regan Haffele, were inspired to start a Mexican restaurant after visiting California and eating Los Angeles Mexican cuisine, Pennacchio said.
 
Josh Atwood, a former sous-chef for downtown Minneapolis’ Bar La Grassa, will join the Bar Luchador crew, Pennacchio said.
 
Despite the nearing opening date, the bar is still waiting on a signature from Mayor Betsy Hodges for approval to purchase alcohol in bulk, Minneapolis Business Licensing District Supervisor Craig Eliason said.
 
Burrito Loco, a Dinkytown burrito restaurant, is looking forward to the increasing business around campus, owner Greg Pillsbury said. 
 
“The campus has changed many times over the years, and there’s enough people to go around and enough options in the area,” he said. 
 
Though both restaurants serve Mexican food, Bar Luchador’s menu will differ from Burrito Loco, Pillsbury said.
 
“I wouldn’t compete with a chef from downtown or somewhere making Mexican food they grew up with. That’s just not our thing,” he said, adding that Burrito Loco is an American burrito shop that serves affordable Mexican food in high volumes.
 
Still, ethnic cuisine, like the food Bar Luchador intends to serve, is attractive to a younger generation of consumers, including college students, said Jackie Rodriguez, senior manager for Technomic, a Chicago-based food industry research company.
 
“Younger consumers are fairly adventurous and like to try new things, but at the same time, they are attracted to authenticity,” Rodriguez said.
 
Fast casual restaurants, or establishments that fall between fast-food and full table service, like Chipotle and Qdoba, have limited menus and fall short when customers crave authentic flavor, she said.
 
However, the restaurant and other traditional sit-down establishments will face competition with hot food and salad bars in grocery stores as they become increasingly popular, Rodriguez said, though she said Bar Luchador’s authenticity and improving economic conditions in the state may help the restaurant last longer than the building’s former tenants.
 
She said college students will continue to rely heavily on restaurants for the social atmosphere they provide. Restaurants are more a part of the average college student’s everyday lifestyle, rather than a special treat, she said.
 
Biomedical engineering graduate student and amateur food blogger David Zhang said authentic Mexican food is hard to find not only on campus but also in the metro area.
 
He said he’s excited for the new bar.
 
“I’ve tried all tacos in town, and I can tell you they are not impressive,” Zhang said.
 
Zhang said he would also like to see the restaurant replace Campus Pizza’s karaoke night with a new attraction.
 
“A salsa night would be interesting,” he said.