Tucson restaurateur Brian Metzger is moving downtown this fall.
The Metzger Family Restaurants, which operates Jax Kitchen on the northwest side and The Abbey in the Foothills, plans to open Gio Taco at The Cadence as early as November.
The 2,400-square-foot fast-casual restaurant will be next to World of Beer in the new student housing complex at 350 E. Congress St.
"I've probably looked at 20 locations in the last two years that we thought might work for Gio Taco in Tucson," including near the University of Arizona, Metzger said. "The Cadence … fit the Gio Taco concept to a T."
Gio Taco will not serve your typical ground beef and cheese tacos. Executive Chef Virginia Wooters, who helms the kitchens of Jax and The Abbey, is borrowing influences from Cuba, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Mexico to create tacos that Metzger said will redefine how we think of a quintessential Mexican staple. The restaurant will hand-make tortillas and fill them with innovative ingredient pairings.
Metzger said prices will be competitive to other craft taco restaurants in Tucson.
Gio Taco, named after Metzger's 5-year-old stepson Giovanni, will have a to-go window open until 2:30 a.m. to serve the late-night downtown bar crowds. Another to-go window will face the pool of the 465-bedroom, six-story student complex, slated to open next month.
Gio Taco joins a growing list of new restaurants downtown, including Penca, Flagstaff imports Diablo Burger and Proper, and, coming in November, Phoenix's Pizzeria Bianco by nationally known James Beard-winning chef Chris Bianco.
"I couldn't be more excited about the location," said Metzger, who added that he is cautiously optimistic about downtown Tucson's ongoing resurgence.
"I'm very excited about the east end that we chose to be in," he said. "It's kind of more of a living area, and I think that's one of the final pieces to have it revitalize itself: to have people live down there."
Gio Tacos will be next-door neighbors with World of Beer, which plans to open a 3,000-square-foot craft beer store and bar at The Cadence in October.
"The type of people who are willing to take the leap of faith to move downtown are restaurants, No. 1, and bars, No. 2," said Jim Campbell, who is developing The Cadence's 20,000 square feet of retail space.
"The retail guys are still scared. … I think what we are seeing is that the restaurants are kind of the missionaries for downtown. ... These guys are taking the risks for everybody. They are going to help bring downtown back."
Campbell said he is negotiating leases with several other restaurant and entertainment ventures that want to be part of The Cadence, including a proposed 6,000-square-foot lounge and restaurant. He has 5,500 square feet still available for lease.
Metzger's maiden restaurant Jax, named after his 6-year-old son Jackson, marks its fifth anniversary in August. The Abbey, named after Metzger's 8-year-old daughter Abbey, celebrates its third anniversary in November.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com or 573-4642.