Taco Chelo, Arizona’s premier modern taqueria where traditional family recipes meet vibrant visual arts, has marked its first expansion with a stunning second location in Tempe designed by one of the state’s most distinguished artists to resemble a traditional Mexican pueblo.  

A collaboration between renowned restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin, revered Chef Suny Santana and internationally recognized artist Gennaro Garcia, Taco Chelo offers the genuine taste of Mexico against a backdrop of artistic splendor. Now open, the Tempe restaurant features the same menu that’s made it a hotspot in downtown Phoenix since 2018, with a selection of tacos wrapped in hand-pressed, made-to-order tortillas, signature entrees and handcrafted cocktails. Exuding Mexican charm tinged with alluring originality, Taco Chelo Tempe is a rarefied restaurant that doubles as an art installation.

Garcia, a celebrated artist born and raised in Sonora, Mexico, drew inspiration from a 100-year-old Mexican cantina when designing the new 1,600-square-foot location. The floor serves as the main character of the colorful space courtesy of pasta tiles handmade in Jalisco, Mexico, that anchor the aesthetic. Mosaic tiles bearing the quote “Less Feelings, More Tacos” offer a photo-worthy moment upon arrival. Garcia personally sourced all the art, furniture and materials from Mexico and Arizona.

The pièce de résistance is the “retablo” (retable), a kelly-green elaborate structure with pops of neon that serves as an altarpiece and displays artwork, sculptures and more. Personal additions to the retablo include handmade Talavera plates by Garcia with Uriarte Talavera in Puebla, Mexico, along with hand-carved butterflies and mariachis made by his father. The retablo is an homage to Garcia’s father and is inspired by the art he created alongside him during his childhood.    

“Taco Chelo Tempe is a space where I’ve poured my heart and soul, aiming to evoke the same emotions as one of my paintings. Every single detail, from the materials to the textures and even the doorknobs, was carefully selected to capture the beauty and richness of my beloved Mexico,” said Garcia. “I wanted to not only create a visually stunning space but also to curate an immersive experience for guests. I hope that stepping into our restaurant transports diners to a place where they can savor not just the flavors of Mexico, but also its warmth, vibrancy and hospitality.”  

With bespoke furniture exuding a deep sense of craftsmanship, at the heart of the restaurant sits a custom-made communal table by Lion Craft and adjacent to the kitchen is a chef’s table made in Garcia’s hometown of Sonora, Mexico. A custom cantina-inspired bar in Cadmium green by the acclaimed Casa Armida is situated near the back of the restaurant, along with bar stools handcrafted by Mexa in Guadalajara, Mexico. Complementing the vibrant vibes are 4-foot handmade woven palm lamps by Once Patios in Michoacán, Mexico, in the vivid purplish pink tone of Rosa Mexicano (“Mexican Pink”).  

With every surface soaked in color and floor-to-ceiling windows, the exterior focal point is a custom 4-foot neon LED sign made by Phoenix artist Lily Reeves of Reeves Studios. The artwork features a skull adorned with the letter “A” on the forehead, a nod to Arizona State University’s treasured “A” Mountain (Hayden Butte). The quote “Hecho en Tempe” (“Made in Tempe”) illuminates Taco Chelo Tempe from blocks away and makes it a notable landmark all its own. A 36-seat outdoor front patio ideal for people-watching completes the space with an engaging environment to enjoy the lively street scene.

In addition to Taco Chelo, Garcia’s expansive restaurant design portfolio includes Barrio Queen, Ghost Ranch, Salt Tacos y Tequila, Bodega, Tempe Public Market Cafe and more in Spain and Mexico. Represented by galleries in both the U.S. and Mexico, Garcia also has an eponymous gallery in the Grand Avenue arts district in downtown Phoenix along with San Diego and multiple studios in Mexico, including the art mecca of Mexico City, Los Cabos, Puebla and San Miguel de Allende.

Taco Chelo Tempe is located at 521 S. College Avenue, Suite 112, and is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday for dine-in or takeout. Happy hour is available weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and all day on Tuesdays while weekend brunch is available Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more, visit TacoChelo.com.  

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