Kamakura, Kanagawa Pref. – Remember last month when a man on a bicycle accidentally photobombed a group of tetsu-ota (“train geeks”) attempting to take a picture of a new carriage model on the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden for short)? Turns out the man in question, Dylan Patrick Croke, owns Home Taco Bar, and business is now booming.
Since August, there’s been a constant line of customers — 30 to 40 on a busy day, according to Croke — and the restaurant’s Instagram followers skyrocketed to over 53,000 in just a few days.
“I went home thinking that (the situation) was over, and the next day everything just changed,” Croke says.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Croke’s experience with Japan dates back 15 years. A long-time surfing enthusiast, while living in San Diego he encountered locals from the Shonan area in Kanagawa Prefecture, who inspired him to first visit Japan.
When he visited again in 2016, opening a restaurant was not initially part of the plan, but Croke says he had always wished for more local dining options in the area. “I decided to open a taco bar because I just got tired of complaining about how there’s no good Mexican food around here,” he says, adding that some restaurants around Enoshima island are quite touristy.
Inspired by a reunion with two Japanese friends he met in the U.S., they opened the doors to the shop in 2019 — just 40 days after getting the venue contract.
Since then, Home Taco Bar has become much-loved by locals and newcomers alike. It currently offers tacos (chicken ¥350, pork ¥450), nachos (¥1,000) and burritos (chicken ¥1,000, pork ¥1,200), though additional items such as chimichangas, quesadillas, burgers and smoked ribs may become available later.
The tacos feature flavorful, handmade corn tortillas heaped with freshly diced tomatoes and gently grilled meat, and then topped with an original mustard sauce and chopped coriander. A plate of fresh-from-the-oven nachos heaped with cheese is another perfect appetizer.
While the palm-sized tacos are lighter fare, the burritos are hearty and satisfying, stuffed with a generous portion of jasmine rice, black beans and smoked meat, as well as fresh, locally grown lettuce.
In addition to the food and fame, there’s another reason behind the queue. As its name suggests, the restaurant’s concept is to be a home away from home. Three guitars hang on the wall, and an electric piano is set beside the kitchen. In other words, it’s a restaurant, but with a cultural and musical vibe.
“I want people to feel at home and to know that they can come back anytime for good food and good times,” Croke says. “Mi casa es tu casa.” Or, “my home is your home.”
Although he hasn’t decided on any specific plans for the restaurant, Croke is taking the opportunity to expand Home Taco Bar’s merchandise lineup, which includes T-shirts, caps and hoodies. Recent drops include a new design featuring the store’s original logo and his now-internet-famous Enoden image.
Perhaps we’ll all become taco-ota (“taco geeks”) before long.
Koshigoe 2-10-25-202, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0033; 080-1387-9292; home-taco-bar.jimdofree.com
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