Nearly one month after its opening, Tulum Tacos & Tequila owner Nicolas Geeraerts said the new restaurant in Mineola already has regulars returning for more.
“The welcome from the community has been great so far,” Geeraerts, of Albertson, told Blank Slate Media. “The reviews have been great and we’ve seen people come back four or five times. The demand is incredible.”
The site of the restaurant, located at the former Friendly’s on Jericho Turnpike, stood out to Geeraerts because of both its proximity to his home and the existing foundation the building had.
“From a business perspective, the fact that it had parking, was centrally located and the Friendly’s model worked really well for what we were looking for, that’s why we decided on this,” Geeraerts said.
Tulum is not Geeraerts’ first venture in the industry but is the first he went into on his own alongside a friend. Professionally, Geeraerts is the current VP of operations for hospitality group JF restaurants.
A native of Belgium, Geeraerts moved to New York when he met his wife, an art teacher in Carle Place, 18 years ago before settling in Albertson three years later.
When describing the restaurant, which can seat 85 patrons inside and 45 outside, Geeraerts said he wanted to create a bright, colorful and beach-inspired setting, something he said stands in contrast to the darker settings he noticed in Manhattan.
Putting the style together was a family affair, with his wife creating a four-foot sugar skull made of bottle caps and designing the bathrooms.
Owning his own restaurant was something Geeraerts said he had always considered, but the catalyst to put it in motion came from the COVID-19 pandemic and realizing that if his other work never fully recovered, he would still have a business close to his home.
“That’s why we doubled down locally — worst case scenario I can walk to work,” he said.
Part of the pandemic was also built into the business model, as the eatery plans on having a takeout window in early January.
When talking about the menu, Geeraerts said every night something jumps out more than the other choices, whether it be the Pat Lafrieda Steakhouse, fish or shrimp tacos, to name a few.
“I wanted to try to do a California approach to tacos and we also have a lot of vegan and vegetarian options as well,” Geeraerts said. “I’m surprised by how many vegetarian tacos we sell on a daily basis.”
Since opening Tulum has only been serving dinner, a step Geeraerts said was planned as part of a staggered opening. The outdoor patio and takeout window were expected to open early this year.
“We want to do it right and I’m trying to do it the right way,” Geeraerts said. “We’re here to stay and I want the community to know that and try to make the best of it for everybody. Everybody can have a new home in Mineola.”
Tulum Tacos & Tequila is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday and open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. from Friday to Saturday. The website can be found at www.tulumta.co