Bright, bold and new has found its way to Tallahassee on the corner of Pensacola and Ocala streets, and it goes by the name of Riksha Tacos Asian Street Food.
When arriving at the new restaurant the first thing that will probably catch your eye is the beautifully painted murals by Sarah Painter, a well-known artist in the Tallahassee area. The paintings include a woman with her mouth opened with a few chili peppers resting on her tongue, which is an indicator to let all customers know it’s about to get hot.
The restaurant is family owned by Sunil Rajan and his son Nikhil Rajan. The two men live right here in Tallahassee and have a family history of being in the restaurant business with restaurants owned by their fathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, and aunts back home in southeast Asia. Nikhil, who attended The Culinary Institute of America, came up with the idea of the restaurant while traveling with his father Sunil for the last four years in Latin America and southeast Asia.
The name of the restaurant comes from the main mode of transportation in Asia, which a riksha. A riksha is a vehicle similar to a three-wheeled bicycle that is mainly used in Asian countries to travel and it is tradition to ride a riksha to dinner. The general concept of the restaurant is to “transport” customers to southeast Asia so that locals can get a bowl of Southeast Asian street food. You can find out what a riksha looks like on RikSha logo.
“When it is time to eat you can find the governor, the banker, the teacher and the cab driver all sitting in close proximity chatting it up. That’s the ‘street food’ culture in Asia,” said Sunil Rajan. “We look at Asian street food as a unifying force one that brings everyone together regardless of their class or background.”
The restaurant is a la carte style where you have the choice of ordering Riksha’s signatures or build your own. The menu is different but intriguing. Including but not limited to bases like tacos, bowls or salads and proteins like Korean pork barbecue, Malaysian street-style chicken and Asian vegan medley. Their accents and sauces will have you thinking you are in Hawaii sipping on raw coconut juice as most of the creaminess in their food comes from coconut milk.
“The food is spicy but it is not the type of spicy most people are used to,” said Nikhil Rajan. “When you take your first bite you will probably say to yourself ‘this isn’t spicy at all’ because our spicy is not meant to be hot it’s made to add flavor. You may not start to feel the heat in the back of your throat until the fifth bite or so. And even then it is just flavor not heat.”
RikSha already has a 4.5 star review on Yelp with customers complimenting the uniqueness of their food choices, their sauces, their $3 beers, and their staff.
“Being kind is important to us. It does not make us anymore money. It just makes us feel better,” said Sunil.
Max Todd was hired by Sunil and Nikhil Rajan to be the manager of Riksha. Nikhil believed Todd knocked it out of the park in regards to understanding the vision and execution to bring that vision to life. From the beginning, the three wanted to keep the Asian street food culture which includes being kind to all people no matter who you are or where you come from. Todd made it his business to hire genuinely kind people to be part of their staff.
“Here at Riksha we are excited and we are happy that people want to try our food we don’t take anyone who visits us for granted,” said Todd. “I hired people who were genuine and who were kind. Sure, there were applicants with years of restaurant experience but they just weren’t kind people. I found the people who had that spark.”
Riksha has a lot more in store including new signature tacos that will soon be added to their menu and a new experience called “night market” coming this fall on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights where the restaurant will open from 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. with different themed nights like old school hip-hop and electro swing. Customers can order online for pick up or through Bitesquad for delivery.
They say they are here to stay but most importantly they are here to grow.