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Open now: A look inside Taqueria Tsunami — and its menu — in downtown Gainesville
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Taqueria Tsunami is nearing completion Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey are planning a soft opening for their Latin-Asian fusion restaurant on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville Renaissance’s first restaurant tenant will soon open its doors, filling the plates of local gourmets with Latin-Asian cuisine.

Taqueria Tsunami, a fusion concept created by Scott and Alexis Kinsey of Fork U Concepts, is slated to host its first wave of dinner guests Wednesday, Nov. 2.

For its first week, the restaurant may only be open for dinner service to “take it one step at a time and do it right,” Alexis told The Times Oct. 26. 

To be among Taqueria Tsunami’s first guests in Gainesville, patrons can visit taqueriatsunami.com/locations to add their name to the grand opening waitlist, or scan the QR code posted in the restaurant’s window on the square. 

According to Alexis, 160 guests have already signed up.

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Taqueria Tsunami is nearing completion Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey are planning a soft opening for their Latin-Asian fusion restaurant on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers

For newcomers to the brand, Alexis recommends either the avocado cilantro egg rolls or the Asian nachos — fried wontons with queso, pico de gallo, roasted poblano, corn, lettuce, fresh jalapenos and diners’ choice of seasoned ground beef or short ribs.

Then, for the entree, she steers guests toward the highlight of the menu: the tacos. Particularly the award-winning Thai chicken and shrimp tempura tacos.

One melds grilled teriyaki chicken with cabbage, carrots, cilantro and sesame seeds drizzled with a Thai peanut dressing, while the other garnishes shrimp tempura with Asian slaw, fresh cilantro and a hoisin-lime aioli.

For libations, the full service restaurant and bar boasts an array of margaritas, sangria and signature cocktails — including a dragonberry mojito and samurai sling.

“To have the whole experience of Taqueria Tsunami, you definitely want to have an appetizer, an entree and then a cocktail — and, if you’re still hungry, dessert,” Alexis said. “That gives you a good variety of everything … and the variety is so good, you could eat it three times a week. It’s not heavy; it’s a lighter fare.”

Scott holds a soft spot for the empanadas and Korean fried cauliflower, but as the architect of the menu, it’s hard to choose favorites.

“It’s kind of like asking a parent who’s their favorite child,” he said.

According to Scott, a longtime chef with extensive international travel decorating his passport, Latin-Asian fusion is “one of those things where everyone knows a little bit of each cuisine. It’s taking what you’re familiar with and what you’re comfortable with and kind of meshing them together. Words like ‘teriyaki’ that you’ve grown up with, we’ve taken those words and those flavor points that are on trend … and mesh those into certain recipes and dishes and, hopefully, create a great experience for our guests.”

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Taqueria Tsunami owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey visit their downtown Gainesville restaurant Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, which is nearing completion. The couple are planning a soft opening of their new Latin-Asian fusion restaurant for Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers

Taqueria Tsunami’s foodstuffs are exclusively house-made using fresh ingredients, with its minimal freezer space reserved for ice cream to pair with churros or sopaipillas — crispy tortillas topped with honey, cinnamon and brown sugar — for dessert.

The fresh, unique flair of the menu along with its price point sets the restaurant apart from some of its counterparts, Alexis said, giving patrons a full-service dining experience for as little as $12.

“That’s unheard of nowadays,” she said.

With rising food costs across the industry, the Kinseys have refused to tweak their product to save themselves a few bucks.

“We haven’t changed our product at all,” Alexis said. “We’re not going to go to a lesser product, because we really take value and hold pride in what we sell.”

The couple’s end goal is to see their Gainesville location become a household name.

“The goal is to be, ‘Oh, you’ve got to try Taqueria Tsunami,’” Alexis said. “The place they bring their friends when they’re in town, or their kids come home from college and they’re like, ‘You have Taqueria Tsunami here? We have to go!’ It’s going to take a little bit of time for people to try us out to get there.”

The Gainesville location is the couple’s 13th restaurant and ninth within the Taqueria Tsunami brand. Their portfolio also covers burgers, Spanish tapas and Neapolitan fare via additional restaurant concepts across Georgia.

On the opposite end of the Renaissance, the Kinseys are approaching the initial buildout of their 14th restaurant, Cotto, a sophisticated Italian eatery slated to open in January 2023.

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Taqueria Tsunami is nearing completion Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey are planning a soft opening for their Latin-Asian fusion restaurant on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers

When asked how they manage it all, Alexis responded, “We work a lot. We have great operators, great management at each location and we try to keep each brand with its own identity, so it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into the same place but also keep that integrity of the food that you have from your very first location.”

Taqueria Tsunami opened its first location 10 years ago on the Marietta square, which felt strikingly similar to Gainesville’s square today, the Kinseys said. Since then, they’ve positioned their subsequent locations to cater to families in residential areas.

“That’s our core; that’s part of our culture,” Alexis said. “We see the value in families with children having a place to go eat. We understand that when you go into a residential area, you want to be able to cater to those families to make sure they’re repeat guests of yours.”

As bookends of the Gainesville Renaissance development, the Kinseys are eager to further integrate themselves into the community, contribute to the city’s economic development and — borrowing from the restaurant’s slogan, “Mi casa es Tsu casa” — ensure their guests feel right at home as they dine at Taqueria Tsunami.

“People are just so nice and it’s such a great community to be a part of,” Alexis said. “The area is beautiful in itself, but the people here just make it more beautiful because they’re so excited … to have a new restaurant in town. We’ll feed them and they’ll feed us.”

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Taqueria Tsunami owner Alexis Kinsey works Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, at the downtown Gainesville Latin-Asian fusion restaurant as the restaurant prepares for a soft opening on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Taqueria Tsunami is nearing completion Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey are planning a soft opening for their Latin-Asian fusion restaurant on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Taqueria Tsunami is nearing completion Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Owners Scott and Alexis Kinsey are planning a soft opening for their Latin-Asian fusion restaurant on Nov. 2. - photo by Scott Rogers