First Look: Barracuda Taco Stand is bringing bold tacos, seasonal margs and more al fresco dining to Mid City

Options for tacos in Baton Rouge continue to evolve with the much-anticipated opening of Barracuda Taco Stand, a New Orleans-based concept started by entrepreneur, Brett Jones, who has spent nearly two decades working in the restaurant industry.

The New Orleans-born concept takes root in Baton Rouge (officially opening Dec. 20) in a small structure on the 1-acre parcel on Government Street now being transformed into a mixed use development. Previously occupied by two barbecue eateries, Garden District Barbecue and Smokin’ Aces, the Barracuda Taco Stand space is exactly that—a stand where diners stroll up to place orders then take a seat at one of several festive outdoor tables.

“It was born out of this taco stand and margarita garden idea,” Jones says. “I wanted it to be easy to experience, but it was really important to also use high quality ingredients and be consistent every time.”

The entrance facing Government Street is for call ahead take-out orders. To dine in, patrons stroll through the new wooden fence to reach two order windows—one for food, and one for beer and margaritas—an arrangement that allows for ordering additional drinks without returning to the (often long) food queue, Jones says.

Diners are handed a table number, and they choose a seat on the large patio that sits astride D’s Garden Center, another new business in the development and housed in the former Garden District Nursery building. Sharing space with a plant nursery is win for the Barracuda patio; the vibe is lush, green and inviting. And while this week’s chilly temps may put the kibosh on al fresco tacos for some, Jones says the patio will be equipped with heaters. In summer months, fans and sun shades will keep things cool.

The menu is deliberately straightforward, and modeled after the ordering ease in national chains like In-and-Out and Chipotle, Jones says. But that doesn’t signal shortcuts in Barracuda’s boutique recipes. Jones started cooking tacos for large groups in the mid-2000s as an LSU student and a touring musician in the band Terror of the Sea, and he has spent a lot of time pondering the food’s construction.

“It begins with a great tortilla,” he says. Barracuda makes both flour and corn tortillas from scratch to order.

“We make fresh, high-quality tortillas that are Sonoran style, from Northern Mexico,” Jones says. “They’re thinner and chewier than other styles and they have a great flavor.”

Choose from six taco options: chicken, pork, beef, crispy fish, mushroom or broccoli, each one topped with a standard scattering of cilantro, onion and lime, and accompanied by different homemade salsas. The chicken is marinated in achiote, citrus and guajillo chile adobo, then grilled and served in a flour tortilla with a side of green salsa, made from serrano and jalapeno peppers, tomatillos and cilantro. The crispy fish features beer-battered Louisiana catfish topped with shredded cabbage and homemade crema, and Barracuda’s signature salsa macha, a chile oil-like salsa Jones says was inspired by Asian chile oil condiments. It’s made by blending four different dried chiles, toasted garlic, sesame seeds and extra virgin olive, and is popular enough to be sold by the jar.

Each of the featured tacos can be ordered as bowls, which include the featured protein or veggie served with green rice and stewed ranch beans, guacamole, pickled red onion, cilantro and cotija cheese. Order a few plain tortillas for a deconstructed taco experience, Jones suggests.

“Even though the menu is small, there are lots of ways to put a meal together,” he says.

Quesadillas, chips with salsa, guacamole and queso and regular specials round out the Barracuda line up.

After graduating from LSU in 2007, Jones moved to New Orleans and worked in restaurants, later relocating to Washington, D.C. and Miami to work as a general manager in fine dining. He returned to New Orleans and was manager for the now closed culinary start up Dinner Lab, which operated one-off fine dining events in community spaces in New Orleans and 30 other cities, including Baton Rouge. “It was a fun run,” he says. And while the venture failed, Jones says it showed him how to push a business idea from concept to reality.

A taxing stint working long hours in management at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans made him think about what he enjoyed most about the hospitality industry: the marriage of casual, accessible dining and top-flight ingredients. No food embodies this crossroads like tacos, Jones believed, so he created the Barracuda concept, opening the first location on Magazine Street in 2019. It was followed by a second location in Algiers Point in 2021. Jones says he knew from the beginning that he wanted to add a Baton Rouge location and Mid City seemed liked a great fit for his open-air taco garden.

While scratch tacos are the backbone of the menu, the house margaritas and cocktails are no less important, Jones says. Wash your meal down with a classic rocks margarita made with Lunazul Blanco tequila , or one made with mezcal. The spicy margarita gets its kick from fresh jalapenos and spicy salt on the rim. There’s a regular hibiscus option. And there’s always a “Marg of the moment” made with rotating fresh seasonal fruit juices, like citrus in the winter and watermelon in the summer.

Note: this week, Barracuda will be open from 4 pm to 9 pm. Regular hours, which include lunch service, will be posted soon. For more information, eatbarracuda.com