On March 24 I started working on a project called Take Out Only in response to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on restaurants in my area. In my work as a food photographer, I work with a lot of restaurants, both established and new. This is a huge hit for them. When most restaurants fail in the first year, something like this can put even a restaurant that has been in business for years out of business...fast. The impact of this virus has touched so many industries, my own included.
I wanted to bring attention to the places that I've worked with, and the ones that I have never even been to. To let people know what they're dealing with, how they're still
operating, what they're doing to stay safe, both for themselves and their customers. Using what I can out of my talent set, this is my way of saying thank you, we know you're struggling, how can I help.
I moved to Manchester in January 2018, but used to drive through periodically before then. Driving up Main Street, there are a good number of restaurants. There's lots to chose from. Diner fare,Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, pizza; pretty much anything you crave. Many of the facades of these restaurants are very attractive, elegant or funky. But the windows and signage of Lucky Taco especially caught my eye and piqued my interest.
With a Vegas feel and bright colors, the words "Tacos and Burritos" shout out from the main window in a font that is reminiscent of old school tattoos. "Craft Beer" and "Smiles and High Fives" entice from the other windows. How could you not notice this place cruising down the main drag? Beer and tacos? I'm there.
I treated myself to a Lucky Taco's "Create a Taco Plate" option the first time I went. You can chose two or more tacos and add rice and beans for $3 more. I ordered the Ginja Ninja Marinated Fish and the Classic Beef Picadillo tacos for my plate. I splurged for the rice and beans. I ordered take-out and when I went in to pick it up, I saw that they indeed do have a tap room there, too (as the sign promised). It's seperate from the main dining area. It has a large wooden bar and a slightly gritty feel, without the actual grit. Bright colors and wooden booths all carry on the cantina vibe in the dining room. You can almost imagine streets full of old west type characters walking in the dusty streets under the hot sun outside.
When I got home with my food and dug in, I was thoroughly happy with my choices. The ingredients were fresh and spicy. The beef was seasoned perfectly and lean. No greasy pools left behind here. Really good.
So when the pandemic hit and I started my project, I wanted to check in with Lucky Taco and see how they were doing.
By the time I was able to connect and set a time to shoot, they were really locked down. They had online ordering and curbside pickup to be as contactless as possible. I know this is so, so different from what this friendly, popular eatery is usually like. When you arrived to pick up your order now, you have to go to the window and show your name on a slip of paper to have the staff bring it out to the pick-up table. This doesn't seem to deter anyone though. When I was there for my brief shoot, customers were coming and going at a steady pace.
If I was going to go to Lucky Taco for a shoot, I definitely was going to get some food. And they were selling their margarita mix too, so might as well get one of those as well,right? I went for the blood orange mix. I ordered three tacos: Nashville Hot Fried Chicken, Tasty Thai Chicken and the Korean Brisket. I had plans to photograph them too, so my choices were also influenced by photogenic qualities as well as flavor.
The owner Erin Emmons and I got to meet for the first time when she brought out my order. She was masked up and the correct distance away. She was bright and happy and welcoming to me. We didn't get to chat long and I was happy to see that there were customers coming in before and after me. She actually had to run back inside to help the staff, they got so busy.
After I picked up my order, I rushed home. Luckily I only live 5 minutes away. I wanted to get my tacos home fast so I could style them for a little photo shoot...then eat them.
I hope to go back and photograph there when they're open again and in full swing. In the meantime, I was happy to be able to shoot in my home studio.
A little from their website:
"Welcome to Lucky Taco Cantina and Tap Room, located in Manchester, Connecticut. We specialize in Tex-Mex comfort food infused with other worldly delights. Our food will warm your belly and put fire in your soul. Come see us!"
I indeed feel very lucky to have Lucky Taco so close to home. Happy to see Erin and her staff still thriving during this time and know they'll be back in full force when this is all over.
Please note: I practice social distancing guidelines, shoot with long lenses to look like I'm closer than I am, get in and get out to stay out of the way and do not go in to kitchen's unless invited, stay far back from food and I check my temperature before going out.