This story is part of NBC’s Rebound, a 12-episode series airing on NBC 7’s streaming devices and NBC's Peacock. New episodes of Priscilla'’ four-part story air on Wednesdays.
San Diego Chef Priscilla Curiel has a long list of to-dos before her new restaurants, Tuétano Taqueria and Mar Rustico, can open in Old Town but at the top of the priority list is one thing: waiting.
"Right now, we are waiting for the inspection to pass. It's on the 24th," Curiel said. "When they say, 'A! Passed!' I think that's the moment we're going to start prepping so we can open."
Curiel plans to soft open Tuétano Taqueria in the days ahead of her official opening on Dec. 1 to test her menu, which will be filled with her best-seller -- birria, in all forms.
The beef takes two days to braise before it becomes the Michelin-recognized birria used in her tacos and tortas, or eaten alone in a broth called consommé. So, that leaves little time between the inspection and the opening with lots on the agenda.
"I'm really nervous because the time frame is like really short for like all the preparation and for the people that we're expecting," Curiel said. But most of all, she's "ready to go and make this happen for the good of everybody."
While beef is in good supply now, that wasn't the case at the height of the pandemic and Curiel is aware that supply could change at any moment due to shortages across the U.S.
During the pandemic, "the prices were high rocket and it was a shortage. I had to order [meat] like, many days in advance because if I call the same day or one day before, it would be like, 'Oh no, they already sold! You have to wait five days.' and I'd be like, 'What am I going to sell?'"
Curiel is still experiencing shortages, this time of paper trays, containers, napkins and disposable plates. With days left before the shop soft opens, it could hinder her ability to serve customers. But Curiel is ready to meet the challenge.
"If by any reason it does affect [our process], we'll try to work around it, to see and find solutions. I'm a person of finding solutions. So if something like that happens, we'll find a way to get everything running," Curiel said.
As for Mar Rustico, Curiel's Baja-inspired seafood restaurant right next door to Tuétano, the menu of small plates is still in the works and will open shortly after.
The two restaurants, which are part of the new Old Town Urban Market on the corner of Twiggs and Congress streets will also feature beer and wine from local crafters, Mujeres Brew House from Barrio Logan and Speckle Rock Vineyards from Escondido.
"For me, it's very important to work with people from my city, to get their word out, to get their product out," Curiel said. "I think if we can partner up with other businesses from the area, I mean, something wonderful may happen."
By selecting local businesses, Curiel is paying it forward for the help she received during the pandemic. Breweries and wineries called on Curiel to meet a requirement set by state leaders in the summer of 2020 that only allowed them to operate if food was served. That business helped Curiel survive while her border-adjacent location of Tuétano Taqueria suffered.
A Family Affair
Curiel has also relied on the help from her family and has them to thank for the support while she opens two new restaurants.
"When I opened the first birria taqueria, like months after, I got pregnant with Ivana. And after Ivana was born, which was in December, the pandemic hit," Curiel said. "So it was very difficult, also to go to work because of babysitting. You didn't have babysitters. I didn't have employees. My mom helped a lot."
Her husband, who quit his job to help her open the restaurants in Old Town, now manages the business side of her operation.
"We are like the best team ever because I'm like more on the creative side... And he's more like dealing like with the permits, the city and accountability, all of that," Curiel said. "Like, I could forget to pay the rent for tomorrow because I'm in the kitchen."
Curiel's father, who gave Curiel her culinary start, "has always been my mentor."
"My dad has been in the business, like, since the 70s, 80s, all his life. So I grew up with this. All the conversations at home were about restaurants, food, cooks, customers, everything," Curiel said. "Definitely grateful for him to pass his knowledge to me -- his 40-year experience in this industry, back in Mexico and here in San Diego."
About NBC’s Rebound
NBC’s Rebound series started during the coronavirus pandemic as ever-shifting orders and shutdowns threatened small businesses across the United States. Despite the challenges, small businesses stepped up.
Now on Season 5, Rebound follows three small businesses as they do what it takes to keep business going amid the pandemic.
- Watch on your Roku device: add the NBC San Diego channel to your collection, open the channel and select the Rebound playlist.
- Watch on your Apple TV device: download the NBC San Diego app to your collection, open the app and select the Rebound playlist.
- Watch on your Fire TV device: download the NBC San Diego app from the Amazon Appstore, open the app on your Fire TV and select the Rebound playlist.
More From NBC's Rebound
NBC's Rebound gives three business owners cameras to document their own journey through the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some previous episodes: