If you tried to walk into the taco joint on Tybee Island in the past few weeks, you may have left sans taco and met a closed door. No one called in sick and there was not a fire, although you could clearly see there was some wreckage inside.
Chamacos Tacos and Surf on Butler Ave. received some big-time renovations at the hands of its owner and his family and business partners, according to Clay Culver, the “surf” contributing owner of the retail store and taco resturant.
“We’ll be growing the games and the outdoor setting,” Culver said.
The restaurant opened in 2019 under the three partners: Frank Bucci who is behind the tacos, Culver who brought the surf portion of the business, and their “silent partner,” Mike Hall. Now, Chamacos Tacos and Surf is taking off and giving these men something to be proud of on the small beachside community of Tybee Island.
Photo by Noelle Wiehe
One of the owners, Frank Bucci, cooks up tacos from behind the pick-up counter March 23 at Chamacos Tacos and Surf. The recently renovated restaurant will feature expanded retail including surf gear and Chamacos merchandise and activities for kids inside the business.
“We all came into this with our own expertise,” Culver said.
The team envisioned a playground for kids inside, while their adult parents could partake in margarita sipping and enjoy live music outside.
The inside space features a model skate park complete with skateboard ramps and a tiny skateboard for kids to play with, a projection screen to play movies and a chalkboard for kids to sketch creatively on the wall.
“Good drinks, cold beer, good tacos; just simple, simple, simple." — Frank Bucci, Chamacos Tacos and Surf
Culver said he features movies which are family friendly, but nostalgic to his childhood, such as “The Goonies,” “The Princess Bride” and the occasional surf movie such as “Endless Summer” and “The North Shore.”
The restaurant has also expanded their retail to allow their customers, local or tourist, to leave with a little piece of their beloved Tybee taco and surf place. They will sell their mild, medium, hot and extra hot sauces in bottles, logoed Chamacos merchandise, gift sets, and surf gear, including locally-made boards –Step brand and Underground Boardworks.
The shop is the only one to offer locally-made surfboards, crafted by Jim Stephens who lives just off the island, Culver said.
Photo by Noelle Wiehe
Boards sit on display March 23 inside Chamacos Tacos and Surf on Butler Ave. on Tybee Island.The shop is the only one on the island to offer locally-made surfboards, crafted by Jim Stephens.
“I’ve got a board shaper, he’s been shaping in this area for 25 years,” Culver said, noting Stephens, now of Wilmington Island, had also shaped in Maui for a number of years. “He’s really, really good.”
Chamacos serves authentic tacos, while also serving up a little something extra on their weekly specials. Those can be found on the dry-erase-board portion of the menu, as it rotates at least weekly.
Clay recommends the carnitas, but said he does favor the veggie taco. Stuffed with zuchinni and topped with an optional heaping topping of feta cheese, there is good reason.
“Good drinks, cold beer, good tacos; just simple, simple, simple,” Bucci said.
Photo by Noelle Wiehe
A patron is served a veggie taco and carnitas taco, two of several traditional mexican tacos offered on the menu at Chamacos Tacos and Surf.
Bucci began and now still owns a successful taquaria in Tamarindo, Costa Rica he started in 2017, now run by his brother-in-law.
“I always wanted to live and work on a beach, ever since I was 18,” Bucci said.
He came into Chamacos with a menu and a playlist. The owners are open to suggestions on what to add to their menu, but when asked if he took suggestions on songs to add to his playlist, Bucci replied: “Never.”
Bucci said he came here with a playlist of about 600 songs he insisted would play at the restaurant. The playlist consisted of ska, punk rock, punk rock covers, reggae and things you wouldn’t imagine, he said, adding that the songs were the “vibe” he wanted while cooking in the restaurant.
“It’s just the music that I like,” Bucci said.
Live music at Chamacos Tacos and Suf starts on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and they hosted their first movie night, where they showed “The Fabulous Mr. Fox,” this past Friday.
Culver predicts the retail and inside activity center should be completed in the next three weeks.
“We’re just having fun,” he said.
In the weeks to follow, he intends to bring in local small businesses to set up shop on site, such as vintage clothing, potted plants, or produce trucks as pop-ups on some weekends.
“It’ll support another small business and it’ll create almost like a little marketplace here,” Culver said. “We’re trying to go off the vibe, you know?”
Chamacos Tacos and Surf is located at 1311 Butler Ave. For events and details, visit them on Instagram @chamacostacos.