First Bite: Mexi-Cali Cuisine Comes to Concord
Puesto may specialize in tacos, but it’s anything but an average taqueria.
Newly opened in The Veranda shopping center, Puesto is a standout among Concord’s numerous Mexican eateries—but don’t come here expecting traditional street tacos, enchilada plates, and burritos.
The family-owned, San Diego–based restaurant group elevates typical taqueria fare, combining the flavors of Mexico with fresh, seasonal California ingredients. Creamy guacamole is dotted with crunchy pomegranate seeds and candied walnuts; a masa-based crepe is served alongside smoked heirloom beets; a spicy shrimp cocktail is laced with avocado and Tajín-seasoned peanuts; and a thick sope is topped with ultra-tender shredded beef and rich bone marrow.
Primarily known for its creative tacos, Puesto showcases sustainable meats, local produce, and house-made salsas inside handmade, maíz azul stone-ground tortillas. The biggest success on our visit was the tamarindo shrimp taco, featuring crispy shrimp, a zingy tamarindo-chile sauce, classic guacamole, and cilantro; each bite was well balanced and bursting with flavor. The verduras taco—brimming with tatume squash, rajas (roasted poblano chiles), nopales, zucchini blossom, and various other veggies—was another hit. Less impressive, however, was the chicken al pastor taco. The meat was dry, and the crispy melted cheese rolled inside (a Puesto trademark) masked the taste of the hibiscus and chipotle tinga.
Luckily, the cocktails here are a cut above and can compensate for any disappointing dish. Most drinks highlight agave spirits from Mexico; our favorites were the What We’re Having—crafted with Fortaleza silver tequila, fresh lime juice, and agave nectar—and the Gin and Mezcal and Juice, a fun play on the classic Snoop Dogg song, containing the two eponymous spirits, chamomile, lemon juice, and frothy egg white. (Also on offer are microbrews and wines from different regions of California and Mexico, sangria, house-made frozen horchata, and seasonal agua frescas.)
The powerful concoctions add to Puesto’s festive ambience, which reflects the vibrant culture and energy of Mexico City (executive chef Luisteen Gonzalez’s hometown). Offering indoor and outdoor seating, the sleek, 7,500-square-foot space boasts gleaming balsa wood tables; walls adorned with colorful murals by graffiti artist Chor Boogie; lively salsa and reggaeton music; and a glowing, towering bar bustling with activity.
And though there are still some small kinks to work out, based on what we witnessed—and tasted—during its first week, the hip Puesto is bound to be a popular spot, especially during Taco Tuesdays ($3 tacos, $3.50 Modelo cans) and weekday happy hours ($4 tacos, $9 Puesto Perfect Margaritas).
2035 Diamond Blvd., Concord, (925) 334-7794, eatpuesto.com. Lunch and dinner daily.