Rubio’s and Richard Blais team up for a culinary adventure

Ralph Rubio (left) and Richard Blais debut collaboration tacos.
Ralph Rubio (left) and Richard Blais debut collaboration tacos.

The Rubio’s brand is all about adventure. So says Rubio’s Coastal Grill co-founder Ralph Rubio , who first brought Baja-style fish tacos to the masses in San Diego in the early ‘80s.

Inspired by his spring break trips to Baja as a college student, Rubio wanted to share the culture and cuisine with his hometown of San Diego. He opened the first Rubio’s in Pacific Beach in 1983 and since then, he’s expanded his empire to include over 200 locations offering the original award-winning fish taco.

“When you think about the brand, it started on the notion of adventure,” said Rubio. “My trips down to Baja, surf trips or just exploring the Sea of Cortez ... we’ve always been based in adventure.”

New Rubio’s x Blais Street Tacos collaboration.
New Rubio’s x Blais Street Tacos collaboration.

The next Rubio’s adventure is a collaboration with local celebrity chef, Richard Blais .

Blais is best known as the winner (and currently a judge) of “Top Chef,” not to mention the restaurateur behind local favorites like Juniper and Ivy, The Crack Shack and the newly-opened Ember & Rye. Blais is also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and honed his kitchen chops in fine dining establishments like the French Laundry, El Bulli and Chez Panisse. And he’s been nominated for a James Beard award, one of the highest honors in the culinary world.

The new Rubio’s x Blais Street Tacos collaboration was born from a desire to make innovative tastes accessible to the average Rubio’s diner.

“This project started two years ago pretty much exactly. Stacey Sultar, our chief marketing officer, came up with this notion of Rubio’s working with a celebrity chef, doing something new and interesting and innovative. And we’d never done anything close to that,” said Rubio.

After approaching Blais and his team, the concept of a collaboration street taco came to fruition. Make that three collaboration street tacos.

“We’ve had street tacos on the menu for ages, but we wanted to do something really innovative around street tacos. So he (Blais) went off and ideated for a few weeks and came back with about 20, 22 concepts. He’s that creative. The guy’s prolific,” raved Rubio.

After narrowing down the concepts, the three new collaboration tacos are the Hawaiian-influenced Hula Hula Carnitas, the Blaised & Glazed Crispy Chicken, inspired by spicy Buffalo chicken wings, and the Ancho Po-Boy Shrimp, a modern take on the New Orleans classic.

“(These are) three really unique and differentiated products that are all delicious. It’s got a bit of Rubio’s — most of the ingredients in these tacos are existing ingredients, but we did bring in some new ingredients. But when you taste the food, you can get a sense of Rubio’s, but also you get a sense of something very new and different and unique. That’s what we wanted from Richard and that’s what he delivered on,” said Rubio.

“For the Blaised & Glazed Crispy Chicken, we use Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wing sauce, which a lot of people might not be familiar with, but it’s got cayenne peppers and all these other chilis,” Rubio continued. “And then our marinated pork for our carnitas, it’s got gochujang sauce, which is a spicy Korean sauce with achiote and garlic. So we introduce all these really unique and delicious flavor and ingredients and spices that you may not be familiar with, that’s a big part of the adventure. You could look at it as a culinary adventure, an adventure in flavors.”

In addition to the gochujang marinated pork, the Hula Hula Carnitas tacos are served with mango salsa, black sesame seeds, cotija cheese and a slice of lime on a stone ground corn tortilla. The Blaised & Glazed Crispy Chicken taco is served with crispy chicken, Frank’s RedHot sauce, shredded cabbage, homemade ranch sauce and house pickled celery and jalapeno, garnished with cotija cheese and celery seed. And the Ancho Po-Boy Shrimp is made with flash-fried ancho-lime shrimp served with Cajun aioli on a warm flour tortilla with shredded cabbage, salsa fresca and lime.

The three collaboration tacos will be available at all Rubio’s locations in California, Arizona and Nevada. Rubio’s Rewards members can try them starting May 19, and the general public can order them starting May 20. The tacos are available individually or try all three when you order the Blais Street Taco plate, which includes one of each taco and chips and beans.

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