The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

The award-winning voice of North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The Chant

East Coast Street Tacos brings Brooklyn tang to Acworth

Nathaniel Jordan
East Coast Street Tacos, founded in Brooklyn, New York in 2004 by Ivan Vichinsky, has grown rapidly over the last two decades. The Latin American taco restaurant takes the riskiest leap of its young journey, exiting the Northeast and planting a new location in Acworth, Georgia. Outside of the taco shells, East Coast’s ownership plans to bring New York to the South and rekindle the community with fresh cuisine, a New York deli and even a Bodega.

Tucked away behind an Acworth gas station lies a building notorious for failed businesses and petty crime. This exact site, however, now hosts one of Cobb County’s hidden gems. On July 14, restaurant franchisee and United States Navy veteran Kenny Velez officially helped open the doors to East Coast Street Tacos, a Latin American-style restaurant headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. With four current locations and three scheduled to open in the next coming months, the Acworth location becomes the first of the chain to depart from the Northeast. This move proves risky, as the restaurant already deals with backlash from misconceptions about the food’s origins, but Velez understands the concerns and prepares to bring clarity to what exactly East Coast serves.

“When people taste it, they have never heard of us before, they have never been here before, and they learn we are not your typical Mexican restaurant. I tell them that we are a South-Central American, Latin American cuisine, and when I tell them that, their taste buds completely change. When I tell them everything is handcrafted, there’s a higher expectation now. The important thing to remember is that everything has a New York zest to it; we are from New York, we are from Brooklyn, and the food absolutely represents that,” Velez said.

Velez lived in New York his entire childhood. Shortly after graduating high school, he enlisted in the Navy and served four years before he moved on to the food industry, beginning his 30-year-long career managing restaurants and kitchens.

Founded by Ivan Vichinsky and his family, the restaurant sparked a cult following in the Brooklyn area transitioning from a cramped shack in the center of New York City to opening spacious restaurants in Long Island and John F. Kennedy Airport. 

”One of the things we do is that we use hanger steaks, which is one of the best steaks you can use. The steaks are marinated on-site and cut on-site— everything is done on-site. Everything is prepared to order, which is a big difference [from] a lot of other places…Everything you taste that is popping in the ingredients is because everything we make is fresh,” Velez said.

This establishment boasts its star-studded menu, featuring the staff’s favorite item: the buffalo chicken empanada. Also on the roster sits the company’s stellar quesadillas, and a multitude of vegetarian options alongside Brooklyn’s favorite birria tacos. 

The various taco options include the typical shrimp, chicken, pork and ground beef, but every meat carries an upgraded partner, such as the aforementioned hanger steak tacos. This savory cut melts on the palate, and the kitchen staff cooks a perfectly seared steak, beautifully grilled shrimp and a wonderfully crunchy breading on the fried menu items. This standout eatery not only prides itself in distinctive food options— Velez says his motivations dig deeper than that. 

In the summer of 2022,  beloved store owner, Abu Ahammed, died in an armed robbery in the exact building which East Coast operates. Moreover, the ongoing drug problem pushes Acworth residents away from the area, but Velez takes strides to revive the community.

“We invited the community. We had barbecues and bookbag drives. We did a lot of things to bring the community back into this area, not just to feel comfortable for themselves, but to feel comfortable for their kids,” Velez said.

Velez’s nieces live in the Cobb community and attend NC, and he considers everyone in Acworth an extension of his family. Connections to the area lead Velez and his partners’ aspirations to host school sponsorships, teachers’ nights, and catering for NC athletics. His ideology not only applies to Acworth, but the team at East Coast makes it a company-wide goal to ensure that struggling communities become safe and secure.

Velez made acquisitions to include the purchase of the adjacent convenience store, along with the construction of a New York-style deli. He renamed the shop “The Corner Store”, the English translation for New York’s infamous bodegas. The compact lot on Baker Grove Road will eventually become Little New York, and serve as a hub for a revitalized Acworth community.

The fare at East Coast Street Tacos brings a unique experience to an area that lacks diverse food options. Weekly events such as game nights, karaoke, trivia and raffles propel the atmosphere toward success. Even with the quality menu and the variety of vegetarian options, nothing matches the steps this business has taken to restore a struggling Acworth community and with the innovative cuisine, residents can expect East Coast Street Tacos to hold out for the long haul.

The Chant’s grade: A+

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About the Contributor
Nathaniel Jordan
Nathaniel Jordan, Reporter
Nathaniel Jordan, a senior magnet student and cadet in NC’s NJROTC program,  begins his first year on the school newspaper. Jordan's deep passion for writing and research led him to his aspirations of journalism as a future career path. Outside the classroom, Jordan has played for NC’s baseball team, participated on three competitive teams in JROTC and is employed as a head instructor at Choi Kwang Do martial arts. His creative mind extends his wide range of talents into painting, skateboarding and photography. Jordan consistently constructs compelling and thought-provoking poems and is currently working on his first poetry book poetry. Jordan volunteers every Sunday at his church working in the daycare, and strives to be active in school and in his community. With his strenuous efforts to demonstrate great leadership, Jordan attained positions as assistant operations officer, platoon commander, and class leader in JROTC. Jordan also served as a magnet ambassador. Jordan’s goals on The Chant are to grow the NC community and to bring knowledge to social events, breaking news and spreading his passion and knowledge to all readers. Reaching the tail end of his high school career, Jordan hopes his variety of articles on The Chant can help grow the spirit of Warrior Nation, and ensure that nobody is uninformed.

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