Born to the tough streets and hard-scrabble youth of South Philly, Joe turned itinerant bohemian, a lifestyle that took him across the country in search of like minded long-hairs and fellow experimenters in consciousness. He escaped across the border to Mexico, in order to avoid the Vietnam draft, when his tales of chemical ingestion and questionable sexuality didn’t earn him the free pass he was seeking. Legend has it during this time he circumnavigated Lake Chapala backwards on a donkey, and although modern geography would cast doubt on this tale, one thing is certain; he returned home with a life-long love for the character and cuisine of the Mexican people.
In 1992 he signed the lease on 382 Miller, which had been for 40 years or so a greasy-spoon breakfast diner. Months of manual labor revealed a terra cotta cement floor under layers of linoleum tile, brick walls under layers of paint, and a beautiful wood-beamed ceiling behind the sagging acoustic tiles. Joe’s designing wife Marni scoured local church rummage sales and the Marin City flea market for religious iconography and kitschy Mexican tchotchkas, and with the help of some good paint and a lot of Christmas lights, transformed the space into a shrine to all things Mexican.
The original menu was an homage to the street cart food vendors of the towns he loved to visit, most notably Puerto Vallarta (the fish taco) and San Miguel de Allende (the pasilla chile). There was also a considerable amount of culinary influence from our original kitchen staff, who to this day continue to be largely from the Yucatan area of Mexico, and these flavors and concepts have blended together to make the menu as you know it today.
The result was Joe’s Taco Lounge and Salsaria which is now run by Joe’s son, Gabriel, who has been deftly carrying the torch since Joe passed away in 2003. We’ve been serving damn good food at fair prices for 2 1/2 decades thanks in no small part to the support of our local community and for that we extend our gratitude.
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