By Susannah Black
“We were just two buddies working next door to each other who decided to go 50-50 and start living our dream,” says Nick Kowalewski, who opened Zandra’s Taqueria with Miguel Pires. The taco shop debuted in Old Town Manassas a little over three weeks ago in a space that was previously Thai Secret Restaurant.
The co-owners and first-time restaurant owners became friends while working as general managers in restaurants in Manassas: Kowalewski at Okra’s and Pires at Monza. Pires also worked at Carmello’s, which is owned by his mother.
Zandra’s, named after Pires’ wife’s childhood nickname, has been well received in Old Town so far. “It’s been a fantastic reaction. Lunch has been busy and today we were so busy that we were on a full wait and people had to leave because they only had 30 or 45 minutes for their lunch break. But they totally understood and they assured they’d be back to check it out.” says Kowalewski.
Kowalewski describes Zandra’s as serving traditional tacos with a gourmet flare. “Everything is made fresh. And we don’t even have microwaves, we do everything in-house, fresh daily,” says Kowalewski.
Executive Chef Chris Boelman worked as a sous-chef at Malones and an executive chef at City Square Cafe (both in Manassas) before coming to Zandra’s, and his menu includes dishes like taquitos, shrimp wontons, chicken wings, salads and 16 different tacos. Kowalewski’s favorite is the tempura shrimp taco—a corn tortilla stuffed with shrimp, sweet chili tempura, romaine and pico de gallo. The kimchi beef taco is also popular, holding marinated steak topped with kimchi and seaweed salad. While Kowalewski maintains his interest in supporting area farms, he and Pires do not source locally yet.
Drinks include Zandra’s craft-made cocktails, like the margarita with Espolón Reposado tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime juice.
Kowalewski hopes to expand their business and to start more local places with new concepts once Zandra’s business really flourishes. “We’d love to have a beer garden upstairs above Zandra’s … maybe tapas style?” / Zandra’s Taqueria, 9114 Center St., Manassas