One charming First Hill taco shop has bid a reluctant farewell. After three years on Boren Avenue, chef Monica Dimas’s cozy, critically lauded Mexican food destination Little Neon Taco closed permanently after service Sunday, February 28. But fans can take heart that the restaurant will re-emerge as a pop-up at nearby natural wine bar La Dive on March 11, with a full takeout menu.
The smaller format will be familiar to those who have followed the restaurant’s path. Several years ago, Neon Taco (once called Communion) built its following as a pop-up serving posole, delectable tacos, and other bar-friendly snacks out of Capitol Hill den Nacho Borracho. After finding success at that location — as well as popular walkup windows such as Tortas Condesas and Westman’s Bagels — Dimas then opened her first full-fledged restaurant on Boren in 2018.
Little Neon Taco, at one point, added brunch and expanded the menu from tacos to other items, like lamb birria and pan seared wild rockfish, plus some stellar margaritas. But mainstays proved to be the meticulously crafted a la carte tacos (pork belly, carnitas, and chicken mole among the hits) and tortas. Riding plenty of buzz from its debut, the restaurant earned some kudos in the Seattle Times, and was Eater Seattle’s’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018.
But, as has been the case across the board, COVID impacts over the past year were devastating. Though Dimas doesn’t get into too many specifics, she says Little Neon Taco had been doing well in February 2020, only to see all the gains gone by mid March. The restaurant tried some takeout options, developed family meals, and built a cozy new patio, but it appears the efforts weren’t enough to stay afloat. “It’s a wild feeling to see something that I spent so much time working on to finally be built and is close to my heart then to see it be slowly chipped away at by a global pandemic,” she says.
Dimas is saddened by the decision to close the First Hill restaurant, but optimistic about the possibilities of returning to her pop-up roots. The residency at La Dive will last until March 27. After that, she’s looking at the possibility of opening a ghost kitchen, with an eye on developing a long-term partnership (“a la the OG Neon Taco”) or finding a new fixed location. “I’ve never been shy about thinking outside of the box, so hopefully the next version [of Little Neon Taco] will be just as striking, transporting, and delicious,” she says.