You know your favorite neighborhood spot? Imagine if it got a makeover that kept the same great menu but with a bold new look, more space, and a full bar. Well, that’s what happened to Tacubaya, owned by Dona Savitsky of Oakland’s Doña Tomás. Pink, coral, and teal walls mix with tropical plants for a space that feels like a vacation straight out of Mexico. We talked to Dona to learn more.
You’ve been a Berkeley favorite for 15 years and moved just a few doors down from your original location. What prompted the move?
A longtime restaurant next door closed and my landlord gave me the opportunity to move into the space and purchase the liquor license. I had long wanted to expand my old space to include a full bar with a liquor license but couldn’t justify the time and money to close, remodel, look for and purchase a liquor license. With his offer I could remodel the new space while staying open and not losing any sales, and then re-open in the new space next door fairly seamlessly. This prospect was very exciting as the new space was twice as big with a beautiful bar, mezzanine, private patio, more room for my kitchen staff, skylights and high ceilings. It really was a gorgeous space that I got to do a fun, light remodel on!
Once you decided to make the move, what was your inspiration for the new space?
I was inspired by the Mexican architect Luis Barragan. His use of bold color and light over large expanses and his clean lines. Also the colors and folk art of Mexico is an aesthetic that I have always admired. The light in the space is really great and complements the sherbet pink walls and sea foam green ceilings. I had the painters lighten my original pink nine times before I thought it was right. I wanted the new space to be really bright but also have neutral textured accents like the pale wood, rattan bar stools, and hanging basket lamps. We had a few black-and-white photos of iconic Mexican people like Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Cesar Chavez and Luis Barragan and I wanted to add more but wanted the new additions to be kick ass Mexican women so we added Selena, Gloria Anzaldua, Dolores Huerta, Sandra Cisneros.
Where you able to repurpose anything from Tacubaya’s previous location?
We wanted to move the three large iron chandeliers over to the new space – and they look even better there due to the fact that it has more light and we hung them a little lower. They were really difficult to move and rehang but very worth it! I also used the same table and chairs from our old location so we could save money.
I really splurged on the Otomi print wallpaper that we hung inside the bathrooms and two of the small walls right outside the bathrooms. The bar stools were also a splurge. I could have used the existing ones or my old ones but I wanted rattan and metal ones.
When did you open in the new location? Since opening, what has been most wonderful/surprising about the new space?
We opened mid July of this year. The main surprise has been how well received the new space has been – by our old customer base and new customers alike. We have been incredibly busy, and despite my worries that people might be resistant to change, our old customers really love the space! Every time I walk in I am filled with joy, and that feels like I made the right decision!
Editor’s note: Tacubaya and Doña Tomás are both participating in the fundraising event Dine Out for Democracy event tomorrow to support greater voter participation in the upcoming elections. On October 25th participating restaurants in the Bay Area will be donating a portion of their proceeds to the National Voter Protection Action Fund and Alliance for Youth Action.