Food is more than a career for Scott and Alexis Kinsey — it’s a lifestyle.
The couple has spent the last decade building a culinary empire in the Atlanta metro area with their flagship restaurant Taqueria Tsunami, a Latin-Asian kitchen that will soon dock in Gainesville.
Slated to open this summer inside the mixed-use Gainesville Renaissance development erected on the “fourth side” of the downtown square, the restaurant joins 13 other restaurants the Kinseys have brought to Georgia’s table, boasting a repertoire that includes burgers, Spanish tapas and Neapolitan fare — but it’s the fusion concept that puts the wind in their sails.
“This is our baby and our home,” Alexis said.
The menu, crafted by Scott, was inspired by the “influential flavors” encountered in the chef’s travels through Asia and South America, as well as the Los Angeles-area food trucks officiating the epicurean union of Korean and Mexican cuisine.
“I live and breathe food and the creation of food,” Scott said. “It’s all that I know. Even with the pandemic being hard on the hospitality industry, we continue every day to wake up and try to overcome the challenges that are thrown our way.”
According to both Scott and Alexis, the couple are anything but trendsetters.
“We’re really just a small mom-and-pop operation,” Scott said. “We try to stay on top of what’s popular and trendy with consumers, but we just kind of do what we know and what we think people will like. And it just so happens that people have really enjoyed it.”
“(We’re) culinary artists bringing together flavors that probably weren’t well-known 10 years ago,” Alexis said. “We like to introduce things that a lot of people may not have heard of before and incorporate it into something that’s a little more palatable.”
Take the menu’s asada zing taco, for instance: Korean bulgogi marinated steak coupled with shiitake mushrooms, lettuce, sesame seeds and a sesame vinaigrette.
“(It’s) something someone may not have heard of before, but a taco makes it easy to try new ingredients,” Alexis said. “They’re not intimidating”
The menu also caters to herbivores and the gluten-sensitive, offering tofu as a meat substitute and lettuce wraps in place of tortillas.
The Kinseys’ commitment to fresh, quality ingredients is tangible in other Taqueria Tsunami staples as well, like the margaritas concocted with fresh-squeezed lime juice, guacamole made with fresh avocados, homemade empanadas and avocado cilantro egg rolls, which are rolled daily in-house — all of which diners can enjoy for $12-$14 per person per meal, according to Alexis.
“We don’t buy anything and just put it in a fryer, everything’s handmade,” Alexis said. “We really focus on having quality food for a reasonable price point. It’s challenging with inflation and everything else, but we’ve always been a place where you can bring your family and not feel like you’re still hungry when you leave.”
So, why are the Kinseys bringing their “fun, contemporary restaurant” concept to Gainesville?
From the Kinseys’ vantage point, downtown Gainesville bears a striking resemblance to the early days of the Marietta square, and they’re eager to play a role in the city’s ongoing development as they bring “something new and unique” to the plates of local gastronomes.
“We hope to become a cornerstone of the community and become somewhere people think about going, want to go, have a destination to go to,” Alexis said. “The location, the community feel — those are very important things to us when we look for a restaurant location. We try to ingrain ourselves in the community and help support the people who support us.”
As “very community-driven” restaurateurs, the Kinseys and Taqueria Tsunami by extension involve themselves in schools by way of athletic and band sponsorships, charitable initiatives and fundraising events, in addition to pouring a portion of their sales into Red Cross disaster relief efforts.
“We’ve found that the heart of the community is where we get success with our different restaurants; be part of the community, give back to the community and the community will give to you,” Scott said.
The restaurant is accepting applications for all positions, especially manager candidates, Alexis said, noting the couple plan to staff the Gainesville locations with 50-65 local employees.