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The owners behind the popular Union & Main restaurant in East Greenwich are opening another new restaurant.
Justin Dalton-Ameen and Josh Culpo are planning to open Lake Taco on the shores of Tiogue Lake in Coventry this fall. The property at 446 Tiogue Ave., has housed a carousel of concepts over the years — Nino’s, Doherty’s Lakeside Ale House, Tiogue Tavern, and Morse Tavern, which closed in the summer of 2022 due to financial struggles.
The duo partnered with Josh Culpo’s cousin, former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, to open Union and Main last summer and Back 40 in North Kingstown in 2017. The pair also own Black Oak Kitchen & Drinks in Coventry. Each restaurant serves various iterations of American comfort food, but Lake Taco will have more of a taco-and-tequila-bar concept, and all meats will be smoked in-house.
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Baja’s Fresh Grill, Lake Taco coming soon to Coventry
COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) —
Lake Taco, prepares to open up down the road where Morse Tavern used to be. Lake Taco is set to open sometime this fall.
New eatery coming to former Morse Tavern site
COVENTRY — From the owners of another Coventry restaurant, plans are currently in the works to introduce to the town a place where diners can enjoy tacos lakeside.
“A neighborhood spot, that’s our core,” Justin Dalton-Ameen said during this week’s Coventry Town Council meeting as he shared his vision for the restaurant he and his business partner intend to open at the former site of Morse Tavern.
With plans to open Lake Taco later this year — likely in September — Dalton-Ameen and Josh Culpo had come before councilors Tuesday seeking liquor, victualing and live show entertainment licenses.
On Town Solicitor Stephen Angell’s recommendation, the council ultimately voted to hold off on issuing the licenses until a Certificate of Occupancy has been obtained.
Situated on the shores of Tiogue Lake, Lake Taco is the latest venture by the owners of Black Oak Kitchen & Drinks and four other restaurants — Dalton-Ameen and Culpo also teamed up with former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo and others to open Back 40, located in North Kingstown, in 2017 and Union & Main, in East Greenwich, last year.
When they learned from a friend who works in real estate that the building at 446 Tiogue Avenue would be going up for sale, Dalton-Ameen and Culpo “jumped on it,” Dalton-Ameen said.
The building has housed several establishments over the years. Home to Nino’s on Lake Tiogue until 2014, it became the site of Doherty’s Lakeside Ale House, later re-branded as Tiogue Tavern, two years later.
The building was sold to the owner of Morse Tavern in 2018, over a year after Tiogue Tavern shuttered amid financial struggles. Morse Tavern closed its doors last summer, and the building has sat empty since.
The plan for the space is to create an establishment that won’t affect the owners’ other business in town, Dalton-Ameen told councilors Tuesday.
Opened at 760 Tiogue Avenue in 2019, Black Oak mainly serves up American comfort foods; its menu features a variety of classic dishes, from meatloaf and mashed potatoes to hearty salads to various burgers and sandwiches.
In fact, each restaurant owned by Dalton-Ameen and Culpo boasts a similar menu. But their newest restaurant will be different, Dalton-Ameen said.
“Here we’re going more [with a] taco and tequila bar concept,” he said, adding that all meats will be smoked in house. “Not offering what Black Oak offers is what we’re trying to do — it’s something a little out of our comfort zone, but we’re excited.”
The vision is still coming together, but Dalton-Ameen said the plan for the space includes a renovation that will open up the interior to “let the beauty of the place shine through.”
“It’s just a really beautiful spot,” he added. “We’re excited.” And based on their comments Tuesday, councilors share that feeling. “The community is very excited,” Hillary Lima, council president, told the restaurateurs. “We’ve all seen the buzz.” “You’d better have taco Tuesdays,” council vice president James LeBlanc chimed in.
With months of work ahead of them before they anticipate being ready to open, Dalton-Ameen and Culpo seem eager for what their restaurant will offer.
“[We are] just making a comfortable place in the community where people can get together,” Dalton-Ameen said. “That’s what it’s all about for us.”