After helping restaurateur Jon Cronin to start the Fenway Jerry Remy's and The Whiskey Priest, chef Todd Hall says that Cronin told him he would make Hall a partner in any concept he wanted. A native of the Southwest with several high-end Mexican restaurants to his credit, Hall choose Temazcal Tequila Cantina, which debuted one year ago in the Seaport amidst a wave of upscale Mexican openings. It's been more or less packed every since. Hall interrupted a bike ride through the Sonoran desert while on vacation to talk about year one.
Overall, how was the year? Oh, it's been fantastic. I mean what a successful deal, we never saw that coming. We've enjoyed great business, we're on a wait list every night and people love the restaurant so we have a lot of great comments. We have steady clientele and a lot of returning guests so we've been blessed. Especially because there were so many Mexican restaurants that opened within a couple of months of when we did.
Where were you before? In ScottsdaIe, I opened La Hacienda there, and then I did the Adobe in Palm Springs at the Waldorf Astoria there, I did the Padro which is in San Diego on Balboa Park, so Mexican's been what I do for the last 25 years.
How much were you involved in the concept and design? Everything single thing. Everything food and beverage is my concept, all the tequilas and all the menus. We got just an empty square, so we divided it up, about two-thirds for Jerry Remy's and one-third for Temazacal.
Any major delays? No, it was actually on time. It was pretty unusual. I was expecting it to be delayed but they got it right on. We hit our mark.
How did this opening differ from your others? I'm a hotel person, I've worked in hotels since 1976, and all the Mexican restaurants I've worked in have been in hotels, and this is the first time I've worked in an independent operator. I didn't have to go through the same mistakes I'd made over the years; It's like the fourth time I've done this concept. By the fourth time you learn what not to do.
What was the actual opening like? It went really well, we opened up with a tremendous amount of business, we were packed. For the first 9 months, every single chair was full from the time we opened till the time we closed. Didn't see that coming, that's the busiest restaurant I've ever opened, and it just stayed busy.
Did Boston react differently to the concept? It's funny, because we have restaurants like that on every corner in Scottsdale. On my ride this morning I saw at least 12 just like mine. Boston's never seen this so it was really easy to be a superstar here. I'm from the Southwest, this is the cuisine of the American Southwest. Here it's a day in the life, everybody eats it so we're all used to it. One big thing we did that was different was the iPad thing, which was really a hit - everybody loves the iPad [menus] and then they can see the photographs of all the menu items and they can see all 300 tequilas.
Anything about the concept that hasn't flown in Boston? They've been pretty receptive. We had a few menu items, like goat, the burrito with the baby goat, that take really well here [Scottsdale] but we weren't hardly selling any, like two or three a day, so it was hard to keep it in stock and keep it fresh, which is really unusual, because I never had fresher, better goat than I got in Boston. Because they use it on the cruise ships. When the cruise ships come in, they take hundreds of goats, because that's what all the employees want to eat. So Boston's got great goat, much better than Arizona, but the people aren't really adventurous with goat.
How else has the menu changed? In the winter there's some stuff that's not available, so in the winter I have to take off the squash blossom quesadilla because we couldn't get squash blossoms. And about a month ago I added four different items. One is sopes, an appetizer, and I added a salmon dish because so many people requested it. Salmon's not indigenous to Mexico, but we're doing it with a mole sauce. We just have so many guests request that. We added a shredded beef taco and then I also added mole enchiladas. We have really great green enchiladas but a lot of our guests were asking to have mole sauce instead of the green enchiladas, because mole's a big deal. It's on TV, people learn about it, so a lot of people are looking for mole.
Does it feel like it's been a year? Oh, it went really fast. Not at all. We had such a mild winter, I think that was a really big help. People were out and about, they weren't hibernating in their houses.
What's the must-order dish? Carne Asada Tampiquena. We get prime skirt steak and we marinate it for a minimum of five days, but mostly it's seven to ten days, and it is just such delightful, wonderful meat. We'll have people come in and have carne asada and they'll come back in the next night and have it again. It's by far our most popular dish.
What's the most popular dish? The most popular dish is the guacamole; everyone loves the guacamole. We make it fresh every single day. We don't put lime juice in it like people do to keep it from oxidizing, it's just really premium, fresh avocados with nothing more than salt, serrano chiles, cilantro, we sprinkle some tomatoes on top when we serve it. We sell about 150 orders a day, so we'll go through 15 cases of avocados every day. There's 48 avocados in a case, so to give you an idea it's over 700 avocados a day. We have a couple of people who just do nothing but make guacamole.