Pat Rao and Mike Marafioti’s dual Lynbrook restaurants are go-to destinations for foodies and fans of Comic Con.
Lifelong gamers and fanboys, cousins Rao and Marafioti opened their second restaurant, Taco Shack, this past March. The place serves up modern takes on Mexican eats with a signatures menu packed with fresh ingredients and unique flavor combinations.
The cousins aim to fill in a gap in the taco sphere between traditional Mexican cuisine and American fast food.
“We’re into really good quality with different options,” Rao said. “We have grilled pineapples and we have eggs and we have bacon, which are traditionally not in tacos. But that’s the way we like to eat.”
A gamer’s hideaway
The new restaurant opened at 97 Broadway in Lynbrook, the former site of the duo’s Burger Shack which opened in 2013. In 2020, the duo moved the burger joint to 82 Broadway, a much larger location across the street.
With the bigger space at the new Burger Shack, the cousins had a blank canvas to let their geek flags fly. They uploaded video game, comic book and sci-fi references to their walls and secured action figures to every available inch of shelf space. Even in the dining room is fully loaded with a playable gaming system.
“We wanted to create a good atmosphere so families could come and sit down and enjoy the games,” Rao said. “We always knew once we got the bigger location, we were going to put Nintendos at each table.
“The vibe was always going to be video games and Marvel stuff because that’s what we’re into,” he continued. “We just wanted to create a space that reflected us.”
While the new Taco Shack is much smaller than it’s burger-centric neighbor, it squeezes in some fandom where it can. Behind the counter, the cousins displayed a collection of Funko Pop! figures of poplar Marvel character donning Luchador costumes, fitting companions to the Mexican artwork adorning the walls.
Among the popular choices for tacos, burritos, rice bowls, quesadillas and salads are the Allen St., which is grilled chicken with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo, and the Uncle John, which boasts steak, cheese, pico de gallo, corn salsa and guacamole. There’s also the Pollo Loco with crispy chicken, barbecue sauce, cheese, grilled pineapple, onion and jalapeño, and the Philly special, which is comprised of steak, cheese, onion, jalapeño and queso.
With two restaurants under their belts in their first decade of business, Rao said he and Marafioti plan to grow their empire. Once they find a third location, that will inform what type of food they will serve.
“It’s something that’s always in the works,” he said. “Until a place is secured and things are coming along, you never really know. But we enjoy business, so the goal is always to have more.”