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- Bryan Palilonis and son
Chef-owner Bryan Palilonis will open Caja Taqueria in Hardwick by the end of April, but the new restaurant's origin can be traced back to October 2020. That's when Palilonis drove his taco truck, Caja Madera, into a two-bay, heated garage at 154 Route 15, where he would serve that winter. Ultimately, the temporary solution designed to compensate for the pandemic loss of almost a year's worth of events laid the groundwork for something permanent.
Palilonis has spent this winter building a full commercial kitchen in the former garage to create a year-round restaurant. The Caja Madera truck will continue to travel to a full seasonal schedule of weddings and other events.
The taqueria will deliver a "taco-forward menu," Palilonis said, featuring his house-smoked meats such as carnitas and pork belly, as well as seafood and vegetarian options. New items will include burritos, enchiladas, nachos and salads, such as one that combines roasted yucca, pickled jicama, cucumber, strawberries and pepitas over baby greens dressed with a lime vinaigrette. He plans to offer acai bowls for dessert.
Additional dishes such as Oaxacan-style tlayudas will emerge from a new propane-fired pizza oven that the chef has decorated with Mexican tile. The crisp, flat tortillas spread with a black bean purée might be topped with plantains, housemade chorizo, quesillo cheese, onions and cilantro.
With 15 inside seats plus warm-weather seating outside, Caja Taqueria will be open weekdays for lunch and early dinner, depending on demand and on Caja Madera's catering schedule. Palilonis plans to apply for a beer and wine license.