Despite the fact that Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar employs 400 staffers at six locations in four states, many Clevelanders know only of the original restaurant at Eton Chagrin Boulevard. That’s perfectly fine with founder Andy Himmel because he’s more than happy to have cultivated a loyal following at his seven-year-old Latin-themed eatery in Woodmere.
In fact, he’s banking on that loyal fan base to support a brand new taco concept that he and his restaurant group will unveil this spring in Rocky River. Called Bomba Tacos & Rum, the “premium fast-casual” concept will distill down many of the best dishes and practices of Paladar and package them up in an attractive new concept with broader appeal.
“My primary goal when developing this concept was to reduce the commitment a diner might feel they need to have at a restaurant like Paladar,” Himmel explains. “It’s really the perception that these restaurants are easier, quicker and less expensive.”
Himmel rattles off places like Flip Side and B Spot as inspirations in terms of quality and energy. Bomba will be full-service, but decidedly “less serious” than Paladar. “We want it to be warm, playful and sexy,” he notes.
The 4,000-square-foot space on Detroit Road near Linda Street will feature a large wraparound bar with seating for 25. Additional seating at tables and booths will accommodate another 75. Still more diners will find comfortable seating on a roomy three-season patio.
Tacos will be sold by the piece to promote tasting and sharing, says Himmel. Diners can look forward to varieties like Blackened Fish, Slow Braised Duck, Panko-Crusted Shrimp and Lamb Barbacoa. In addition to the namesake tacos, Bomba will offer starters, salads and a few entrees borrowed from the Paladar menu. Fresh-made guacamole and housemade chips — staples of the Paladar brand — will be on hand here as well.
All of Bomba’s meat products will be 100-percent hormone and antibiotic free. (Paladar is in the process of transitioning there as well.) A commitment is being made to utilize as many local vendors as possible, including those for coffee, ice cream, beer and spirits.
Himmel is no fool when it comes to the restaurant industry. He fully comprehends that he’s entering a crowded taco market — both locally and nationally — but he’s counting on his experience, reputation and vision to help him stand out in the crowd.
“There are a million taco concepts — we’re definitely cognizant of that,” he says. “We hope that the Paladar name will instill confidence and loyalty. We are trying to do everything we can to be completely ourselves and not even pay attention to what everybody else is doing.”
Himmel also notes that Bomba’s Latin American approach and rum-focused cocktail program will differentiate the restaurant from its Mexican-themed counterparts with tequila-based programs. The history of bomba — the drum-heavy soundtrack to Puerto Rican life — was literally born from rum as the drums were fashioned from empty rum barrels.
For now, Himmel says that he’s enjoying the creative process.
“This experience has been so much fun,” he says. “I haven’t done this sort of work in so long. The whole process has really energized our entire team. Our company is really excited to be working on projects around Cleveland.”
Look for Bomba to open in March or April. If all goes well with number one, Himmel hopes to open additional locations around Northeast Ohio.