By Arielle Dollinger
The tacos that Long Islander News described in a May Foodie article to “look like party rooms, dressed in fried onion and guacamole streamers” have been popular menu choices from the inception of The Whale’s Tale's “Taco Tuesdays” four seasons ago, according Sosh Andriano, owner of the casual Northport restaurant on Route 25A.
Each season, he said, the low-key dockside restaurant breaks records for the number of $2 tacos it sells on the third day of the week.
Two years ago, the record hovered around 2,000 in one day. Last season, the record jumped to 3,200, with an hour-and-a-half wait for takeout. On June 17, the staff made 4,273 tacos. A week later, 5,042.
“Torture Tuesday is what we all jokingly call it,” said Andriano, a Hawaii native and graduate of Northport High School.
Last week’s effort took 31 people working at once, Andriano said: two guys managing the parking lot, five guys prepping, 10 guys cooking, seven servers, and multiple managers and bar tenders.
“That day was so crazy, we went through about 400 pounds of chicken, and around 8:30 I was down to my last 20 pounds,” he said. “I called a restaurateur friend of mine.”
Andriano borrowed 80 pounds of chicken to make it through the night. The restaurant gets food deliveries daily now.
During the off season, Andriano added 8 or 9 feet of equipment, he said, in an effort to add flatbreads to the menu and to focus on the restaurant’s new dockside delivery program. On Tuesdays, that new equipment turns into a takeout station to avoid further backup.
“Every year in the off season, I manage the business like a coach would manage a football team,” he said. “Our off season allows us to look at what was successful… and where we can improve.”
With the use of the takeout station, last Tuesday’s busiest wait was around two and a half hours.
“As exciting as it is, all of it is worth nothing if we can’t manage it correctly and make sure that people are safe, to make sure that the food is coming out properly,” the restaurant owner said. “I don’t want to compromise the brand by just slopping things together.”
There is a method. Andriano and his crew come in at 8 a.m. to start prepping. The kitchen is stocked with Red Bull on ice, for its workers.
“The kitchen probably consumes two cases of Red Bull on a Tuesday,” Andriano said.
Though the atmosphere is easy-breezy, the work is serious. Hired staff is required to complete 40 hours of training before beginning work.
“If one of the 31 people makes a mistake on that night, they could throw a cog in the wheel that we would never be able to recoup from,” he said. “We just don’t have room for error.”
The number-one seller is the Fish Taco, with the Filet Mignon taco and the new-this-season Korean Steak Taco coming up behind it. Typically, tacos are $8.50 or $9.50 per pair.
Production is about the rotation, Andriano said. Food comes in, food is prepped, food is handed out.
On his computer, he puts together a product mix report – the report takes the previous three weeks of supply orders, adds them together and divides to find the median. Andriano then orders supplies accordingly.
“The weather last week was just perfect,” he said. “Taking that into consideration and just being so plugged into this business and just knowing it, I was pretty much dead on.”
Save for the chicken borrowing and a couple of produce runs.
Most of the revenue on a Taco Tuesday comes not from tacos, Andriano explained. At $2 a piece, the tacos are sold almost at cost. About two-thirds of the Tuesday revenue comes from the bar.
“The two-dollar tacos is a marketing thing for us,” he said.
And, he said, he thinks that people come more for the novelty of the day than for just the tacos.
This season, Andriano has also been brewing his own beer. The entire first-run of his brew was gone in a week and a half. By the end of next week, he will have 14 barrels of the next summer brew.
The taco record is not quite enough to bring complacency to The Whale’s Tale. Andriano said the restaurant will launch its breakfast program this weekend.