Food Check-in: Yearbook Taco

Posted on December 29, 2014 by


10563050_1507898076111941_8749211234709651441_nIn Charlottesville, it seems that when one restaurant closes, another one opens. This is exactly the case for one of the city’s newest downtown eateries.

Nestled next to The Whiskey Jar on the west end of the Downtown Mall, Yearbook Taco seems like the perfect fit for this college town. The locally inspired menu, craft beer, cozy atmosphere, and the yearbook photos that adorn the restaurant’s walls add to its unique vibe.

“The feeling and the ambience that we’re trying to create here is that nostalgic (vibe),” said Ross Schiller, general manager of Yearbook Taco. “Just a very cozy, little neighborhood bar.”

Yearbook Taco takes over the space once occupied by El Puerto Mexican Restaurant. The owner of the new taco and tequila bar, Hamooda Shami, stopped in at El Puerto over the summer and saw potential for a new restaurant to complement his Don’t Look Back taco bar in Richmond.

“He just had that same feeling,” Schiller said.

Shami soon bought the restaurant and Yearbook Taco held its soft opening on October 27. Word has been spreading about the taco bar ever since.

“This has really been fun and I really believe we have a pretty interesting concept that’s pretty marketable to downtown Charlottesville,” Schiller said. “Who doesn’t want to eat a late-night taco?”


The general manager said he believes the creativity, quality and price point set Yearbook Taco apart from other similar restaurants.

“Our menu is pretty simple,” Schiller said. “We wanted to sell tacos, but we didn’t want to only sell tacos.”

Some of Yearbook Tacos unique offerings include beef lengua and pork belly braised with root beer. Yearbook Taco even offers gluten-free and tofu options.

“We’re just trying to basically feed the masses,” Schiller said. “Our menu is pretty versatile.”

“We want it to be open to everyone,” he added.

The taco bar is consistently working to add more local ingredients to its menu.

“I think the industry standard on the downtown mall is that local vibe – buy local, eat local,” Schiller said.

Yearbook Taco could soon offer tequila tastings and food pairings.

Schiller said that he and executive chef John Meiklejohn have “some fun things planned for the future.”

“He’s been learning a lot about Mexican cuisine,” Schiller said. “I’ve been learning a lot about tequila.”

Yearbook Taco is typically open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, depending on late-night business, and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Schiller noted that the restaurant has started having DJs perform on Fridays and Saturdays and may add more music and other events.

“I’m not trying to pigeonhole us into doing only one thing,” he said, adding he would love to bring in “tequila ambassadors,”or representatives, for tastings and showcase craft tequila.

The entertainment and menu at Yearbook Taco will be constantly changing with the emphasis on leaving customers happy.

“Really, we just want to sell tacos to people and have a good time,” Schiller said.

Posted in: food, New to Cville