One of North County’s most unique restaurant chains, has closed its last, and original location, inside Cardiff by the Sea’s San Elijo State Beach campground.
“People drive up here everyday. They’re disappointed and heartbroken it’s gone,” said a park volunteer.
In 2009, when the Bull Taco restaurant took over the hamburger stand at the campground, it quickly attracted diners from throughout the area, not just campers.
Bull Taco became known for its “non-authentic Mexican food” with a menu of duck, lobster, and up to ten kinds of fish tacos and burritos. They even served foie gras tacos, until the enlarged goose livers were outlawed in California in 2012.
At the campground’s picnic table dining deck, next to Bull Taco and the campground store, one couldn’t beat the unobstructed ocean view, from La Jolla to Dana Point. The State Park welcomed diners to walk in, or park in their short-term parking lot in front of the camp store.
A positive comment on Yelp read, “One doesn’t have to put up with over-priced food, valet parking, and a server named Amanda to eat at an incredible ocean view.”
By early 2011, owner Greg Lukasiewicz, along with his wife and executive chef, Laurel Mananelli, opened their second location on Coast Highway 101 in Oceanside. Soon a location opened on Coast Highway in Encinitas, and in San Clemente on El Camino Real.
The sit-down restaurant locations expanded the unique meat choices, occasionally serving beaver, rabbit, kangaroo, and even offered bull penis tacos. Plans were announced to open future locations in Del Mar and La Jolla, with up to 20 restaurants coming within the next few years.
Things probably began to unravel when the Oceanside location sold to another restaurant in 2014. The last Yelp post for San Clemente was in February of 2015, which at the time had a five star rating. The Encinitas location closed before the holidays.
“The owners of Bull Taco wanted to change their focus and name . . . [without formal approval], which is a breach of contract,” said Lisa Urbach, North Coast Sector Superintendent for California State Parks. “Once State Parks was aware of this unapproved change, we gave a deadline to repair the breach, as outlined in the contract agreement. When this wasn’t completed in the amount of time required, State Parks asked the camp store concession (which sub-leased to Bull Taco) to terminate the sub-contract agreement they had in place.
Bull Taco’s Yelp page for Cardiff says the location is “temporarily closed” and reopening February 25, 2018. “No,” said Urbach. “The camp store will likely serve some sort of food out of the restaurant area, but it will not be Bull Taco.”
Bull Taco’s Yelp listing states the Encinitas location will reopen in 2019. “Good luck with that,” said the Encinitas leasing agent, who confirmed a new lessee is close to taking over the site, and it won’t be owners of Bull Taco.