By Alison Rooney
Four years to the day after opening Angelina’s, owner Kamel Jamal has taken the culinary plunge again, cutting the ribbon on his newest eatery, Tito Santana’s Tacqueria, at the west end of Main Street in Beacon (close to Route 9D.) Owning a pizzeria, Jamal knows that pricing is a key factor, and he was looking for something which would hold its own against pizza, for a similar price point. With the economy still in troubled straits, Jamal feels “people still like to go out and eat healthier alternatives at a reasonable price. Keeping up with food trends, I try to be the first at something, to always be a step ahead. I read about how tacquerias now are more popular than pizza in California.”
It took Jamal a year to come up with the concept, in terms of recipes and simplicity. He explains, “with the menu, the goal was to take a simple concept and eventually expand it; there’s less stress on our staff — and the consumers — that way. We tweak the menu all the time, slowly adding things, but simplicity sells. It’s all about the tacos. Our core elements — the tacos, burritos and quesadillas — stay the same. We don’t use anything canned. We don’t use ground beef, we use strip steaks. We’re big on vegan products. It’s not organic — that’s how we can keep the price of a taco at $2.99 — but it’s all made from scratch. We don’t even have a can opener — that’s the beautiful part!” It’s a family endeavor, with all recipes being tested and tried at home first, “then we teach the chefs if it’s a go.” Jamal’s wife does all the baking.
An experienced food business owner, Jamal also owns the 1-2-3 Deli on Route 9 in Garrison. He has found Beacon very receptive to his newest eatery. He has been quite pleased to see a steady stream of his Garrison and Cold Spring clientele making the trip to Beacon to try out the new place. “They have been a sight for sore eyes; it’s so nice to see familiar faces coming in and supporting us.” In conceiving the business, Jamal factored in the very real benefit of being located quite near the Beacon Metro-North station, “We’re pushing take-out; the train passengers have found us and come at all hours.” Eventually, Jamal hopes to open other dining establishments, throughout the Hudson Valley, “I’d like to stay in the Hudson Valley; I want to keep going with restaurants, but I wouldn’t leave the Hudson Valley for anything.”
Having been open for just over two months Tito Santana already has 13 hits on the foodie website YELP, and has earned 4.5 (out of 5) stars, with many reviewers commenting on the freshness of the ingredients. The tacos, which include a choice of fish, beef, pulled chicken, pulled pork and grilled portabella-tofu, are filled with salsa, cabbage, red onion, and cilantro. The $5.99 burrito consists of black beans, rice, roasted corn, cilantro and cheddar, and add-ons for $1 and $2 include rotisserie chicken and guacamole. Classic jack and cheddar quesadillas cost $4.99. Combo packs combine a main and sides. Soups, including spicy chicken tortilla, Mexican corn chowder, red lentil with carrot and bean chili, are $4. Tres Leche cake and flan are the dessert offerings.
And just who is Tito Santana? A mysterious backer of the establishment? (No, but Middletown’s Chris Karas is Jamal’s working partner in the business.) Turns out that when Jamal was growing up, Tito Santana was the name of a well-known wrestler. Jamal heard the name, never forgot it, thought it was catchy, and there you go.
Tito Santana’s is located at 142 Main Street and is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. More information can be found on their website or by phoning 845-765-2350.
Photos by A.Rooney