Alexandria, VA – “I wanted to do something that wasn’t expected or stereotypical,” said Lynn Umemoto, as we sat in Taqueria Picoso, a restaurant that is a labor of love for her and her spouse Thomas Voskuil.
Located at the Shops at Mark Center (1472 N. Beauregard St.), this hip new restaurant is not just cool to look at but you can order delicious birria tacos on their homemade corn tortillas, a tasty eloté or a refreshing horchata off their street food inspired menu. The chefs at the restaurant make sure to tantalize your tastebuds with authentic food that they are proud to serve to patrons. The smell of roasting pork, corn, and the chiles used to make their homemade salsa combined with the décor truly transports you to Mexico City.
Umemoto will openly admit that she is not a restaurant designer. With the encouragement and support of Voskuil, she went for it. Her vision started with a Pinterest board for inspiration and keeping an open eye for things that would work, even if she didn’t know at the time how it would all come together.
From the beginning, Umemoto wanted to be intentional about the design and knew she wanted to incorporate corrugated metal and salvage wood from Brick + Board. In extra bits of metal came in handy when the contractor noticed that they didn’t have enough light fixtures! Having used up the decoration budget, Umemoto designed wall sconces featuring the corrugated metal! Talk about ingenuity!
“I wanted [the restaurant] to feel like an old, but upscale, taco truck,” stated Umemoto, “having a casual, yet unusual look.”
Taqueria Piscoso definitely has a welcoming environment that draws you in as soon as you enter. You might notice the music first, which varies from old classics like “Juanito Alimaña” by Hector Lavoe to contemporary sounds that make you want to dance. If you look to the right, you’ll notice the lotería wallpaper. Lotería is a traditional game of chance, similar to bingo, but using images on a deck of cards instead of numbered ping pong balls.
“I went on Etsy and found an artist who had done a series of lotería and she sold me the files to make wallpaper!” recalled Umemoto. That worked out much better than her original idea to create the lotería wall with the actual playing cards! You can also find larger lotería card designs, that serve as wall sconces, that were printed out by a friend of Umemoto’s.
On the wall opposite of the lotería wall, you will see dazzling little mirrors with beautiful intricate designs, each of them slightly different than the others.
“We went down to Tucson, where my parents live, to go decoration shopping,” remembers Umemoto, “we went in this cute little store and I loved everything in there! I told the owner ‘I really love these mirrors; I think I’m going to get them’ and the owner asked how many and I said ‘all of them!’” she laughs.
“72 mirrors later!” jokes Voskuil.
“I didn’t know exactly where they were going to go but I knew we could use them,” she said.
That ability to put together bits and pieces that Umemoto found along the 9-month journey to decorating for the opening day works to create an environment in which you can find unique and interesting things to look at Taqueria Picoso. Don’t forget to look up! You might just miss the gorgeous lamps that are interiorly lined with mirrors and create a cool reflection with the bulb.
“In the same shop [in Tucson], were some lamps. They were super expensive, they were heavy, and I had no idea how I would get them back home,” said Umemoto. “My dad even offered to rent a U-Haul and I said, ‘we are not renting a U-Haul and I can’t afford them!’”
The lamps were $800 each and the Tucson shop owner had no idea how to ship them. Umemoto gave up on the lamps, even though she would have loved those lamps that were originally from Guanajuato.
“Someone we didn’t know [named Jeff Trag] reached out to Tom on LinkedIn and told him that if there’s anything in Mexico that he wanted, he’d get if for him.”
“Jeff Trag was someone that was obviously an ex-restauranteur who moved to Guadalajara and would find people that had or were opening Mexican restaurants,” mentioned Voskuil.
So Umemoto sent him pictures of the lamps she’d seen in the Tucson store and the lamps were custom made for Taqueria Picoso. Sounds easy, right? Trag was sent pictures of for reference and the correct measurements but what came back was, in Umemoto’s words, “crazy.”
“Trag would take pictures of what the artist in Mexico was creating and I would say ‘no, that’s not it.’ In the end, I made [the lamp] out of cardboard and sent the template to Mexico! The next thing we know, three whole pallets of lamps came.”
It’s that combination of vision, imagination, perseverance and connections with the community at large that both Umemoto and Voskuil have that created a space that feels both familiar and intriguingly unique. Despite the obstacles, uncertainly, and of course, who can forget the worldwide COVID pandemic, Taqueria Picoso is going strong. Once it’s safe to venture out into the world again, make sure to pay Taqueria Picoso a visit. Your experience is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Taqueria Picoso is located at 1472 N. Beauregard Street in the Shops at Mark Center, and they open everyday at noon except Monday. Check their website here for more information.