Gringo's Taco House

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Gringo's Taco House

Restaurant Feature
There’s a new taco man in town and his name is ‘Gringo’. Gringo’s Taco House is the brainchild of local chef Rob Swander and currently resides in the heart of Torquay’s Surfing Village, in what is known by day as the Golden Plate award winning cafe, Stick and Stones Specialty Cafe. Rob is a Northern Californian native who originally moved out to Australia to study at La Trobe University, which is where he met his future wife, Katrine. After completing his studies he returned to the States for a while before getting engaged and making the move to Australia permanent. Having worked in many of the local haunts – including Sticks and Stones, The Red Till, Odyssey and the Coffee Cartel – he is now finally realising his own dream with Gringo’s.
“I’ve always just wanted to do Mexican, like beach style. I’ve been coming down here for 12 years and I always thought this would be a great spot for it,” Rob beams.
Mexican Food in the country has come a long way these past couple of years and pretty well changed as we knew it. The old Tex-Mex American style used to be all that us Aussies knew, unless of course you had actually visited Mexico itself. Rob agrees and wanted to take Mexican away from that cheesey, fatty processed taste and feel.
“It’s pretty much California fused with Mexico as much as we can, it’s kind of based off the Gourmet Foodtruck culture that’s over there – that’s huge at the moment. I’ve always wanted to do good food, but in a really easy and fast paced way,” Rob says.
P1040846 P1040844
The menu, whilst it is simple, there is something for everyone. Rob maintains that his two big ticket items would have to be the Baha Fish Taco with blackened market fish and honey lime slaw – as seafood is a always a big favourite by the ocean. The other would be ‘The Red Neck’ with 16-hour hickory smoked pork shoulder and Carolina BBQ sauce – which is a bit more of a fusion with barbecue than Mexican. His other items include ‘The MC’ with Mexican fried chicken tender and Austin style queso cheese, two beef options with ‘The Tijuana Street Taco’ (steak) and ‘The Barbacoa’ (slow-braised) and another pork option with ‘Al Pastor’ which is pineapple-guajillo chilli braised shoulder.
“We source all of our produce locally, everything that we can that’s not Mexican we support local. There’s certain Mexican things I couldn’t go without to keep it authentic – so we fuse it together,” he says. “Our tortillas are from La Tortilleria in Kensington and they are as good a tortilla you will ever get in this county. I love them!” he smiles.
If your mouth isn’t watering already I must add that there is something for the vegos too, with ‘The Asado de Patada Dulce’ with sweet potato corn fritters, spinach and Meredith’s goats cheese and ‘The Dirty Hippie’ with tempura fried avocado, refried beans and Meredith’s goats cheese. See, you’re so spoiled for choice, which is also why Rob and his team are more than happy to put together a sharing plate for you and your buddies to share.
Gringo’s offers locals and tourists alike a relaxed and modern setting, with vibrant, young and friendly staff. It is a new style of dining to the area, whist functioning as a restaurant it maintains a comfortable and welcoming vibe with trendy furnishings and fittings, beautiful art works, numerous table arrangement options and large outdoor dining. Whether you’re fresh from the beach with friends or a more well-dressed family, all customers can feel valued in this place, and the venue is completely child friendly.
“We wanted to take people away from the fine dining and encourage people to eat with their hands. We serve in baskets and try to avoid giving out a knife and fork,” Rob says.
Whilst Sticks and Stones will provide a wonderful setting for the pop up version of Gringo’s, Rob hopes to be in his own premises come mid next year, hopefully staying in the Torquay/Ocean Grove area. He had originally planned to be in his own restaurant earlier this year, but sadly the lease fell through last-minute, which is when his good pals at Sticks and Stones offered the ideal solution. Current plans are to stay open at the site until Easter before embarking on an educational trip to Mexico to gain further inspiration. With the infamous busy Torquay summer, not to mention bub on the way, hopefully they will get some relaxation too!
Gringo’s Taco House is located at Sticks and Stones Specialty Cafe, 61 Surfcoast Highway, Torquay.
Open Thursday-Saturday 6-9pm
For more information visit or
By Abbey King