The closure of Nick’s Crispy Tacos leaves exchange students without their “international village”
Some exchange students that attended SF State last semester mourn the loss of the bar that served as their Tuesday hangout spot since its decision to close.
March 7, 2023
A friend told a friend, and she told a friend that on Tuesday nights international and exchange students from SF State went to Nick’s Crispy Tacos. Once the word was spread last semester, attending “Taco Tuesdays” became a must.
Just a few weeks into the semester, exchange students became aware of this party, mostly because of a group chat, and incorporated it as part of their routine.
Every week, students from different parts of the world would come together to get to know each other, being foreign in a new country serving as their common ground.
Cheap beers, international music and socialization were the three pillars of Taco Tuesdays.
Nick’s menu served tacos and other Mexican dishes, but the main attraction prior to its closure in December was its transformation into a club after 10 p.m.
The music played at Nick’s created an atmosphere that international students particularly enjoyed. Music hits from ABBA to “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus were always on the playlist.
Lya Zhang, an exchange student from France, stands out the musical choices as a contributing factor for exchange students to attend.
“The fact that the DJ played international music was making internationals want to go back again,” Zhang said. “So definitely the fact that not every bar is playing [this] music and they don’t have like a dance floor for people to dance pushes international students away, or at least it attracts them, but not enough to make it such a big vibe and make it a big thing for everyone to go.”
For students, who generally don’t have that much money to spend, Nick’s Taco Tuesday was a great deal. Tacos and Coronas for $2 each before 10 p.m.
Brandon Chase, an international student from Canada, can’t exactly point out when Taco Tuesdays became the event it was. However, his power of conviction and desire to gather as many people as possible may have been one of the catalysts.
“I don’t know how it started, but I know that I brought as many people as I could there,” Chase said. “It probably started before that, but for me at least, I liked going there and knowing every single person there, which was the case by the end.”
Chase is an international student, which means his time at SF State is longer than an exchange program, where students usually study at SF State for a semester or year.
He began attending Nick’s Taco Tuesdays last year and since then, has seen exchange students come and go.
Philip Gerdes, a former Fall 2022 exchange student from Germany, says he attended 14 out of the 15 Taco Tuesdays that took place last semester during his stay.
“For me, it was like kind of an international village, this place [in which] most of the students I would not have seen in class or elsewhere,” Gerdes said. “So, I could have met people from all over the world… and that was really cool.”
Looking back, he says he feels grateful and happy to have experienced studying and living in San Francisco. He highlights the friendships he has created here, some of them thanks to Nick’s Crispy Tacos.
Another reason Tuesdays at Nick’s was a success was that students didn’t have to wait for the weekend to go out and have fun.
The party ended at midnight which allowed students to go home early and attend classes the next day. For those who wanted to continue partying until 2 a.m., Mayes Oyster Bar served as an after party just a couple blocks away.
Not everyone was happy about the party’s early end. Hugo Lecointre, an exchange student from France, expressed his mixed feelings about the closing time.
“I mean, at first, I was really disappointed because midnight is super hard, especially for us Europeans, because we’re used to party until 5 or 6 a.m., but then I realized we were at school the next day,” Lecointre said.
On the other hand, Emily Watkin, an exchange student from Wales, says the people that attended were part of the charm.
“I don’t think there was nothing really special about Nick’s,” Watkin said. “I think probably because we all knew each other, and it was a big enough place for everybody to congregate and spend time with each other.”
Watkin also mentioned how it wasn’t an exclusive event for international students.
“I just think that only the international people really knew about it,” Watkin said.
Questions as to why international students felt Taco Tuesdays were so special might be answered by the event’s Instagram profile: “if you haven’t experienced our Taco Tuesday, you haven’t lived.” And that is a common feeling shared by many of the students who attended.
The exchange students who stayed for the current academic year are trying to bring the party back. They have been trying different bars, but so far have not been successful.
There are mixed feelings about the Tuesday festivities coming back. While some people hope they will find a new place, others think it is already too late.
“I don’t think the new students are going to be able to create it because they don’t know what it is, they don’t know what to expect while we do,” Zhang said.
To some students, Nick’s may have only served as a place to let loose, but to others it was an opportunity to be part of a community.
The bar and restaurant had been around for 20 years. However, Taco Tuesdays had given it a second life. After the closure of Nick’s Crispy Tacos, exchange students found themselves without a regular hangout spot.
The reason for Nick’s Crispy Tacos’ closure is still a mystery. Kevin Lopez, a former security guard at Nick’s, is still unclear on the restaurant’s sudden shutdown.
“The story is the owner wanted to retire and the lease was gonna end, so he didn’t want to keep it open,” Lopez said. “But as for the real story, I’m not sure and I don’t think anybody knows.”
A bar and taqueria made up the former venue. Both businesses split the Russian Hill location’s rent.
While the taqueria has some plans to reopen in the Mission, the bar has not announced any plans to return.
“It was the people that brought it together and made it what it was,” Lopez said.
As the last song of every Taco Tuesday – ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA – fades away, exchange and international students will continue to enjoy their time with the different possibilities San Francisco has to offer.
Chase’s phone wallpaper collage of photos of him and his friends on Taco Tuesdays serves as a memory of all the nights spent at Nick’s. Taco Tuesdays will remain in the memory of exchange students as the party they used to go to, but the friendships they created will last longer in time.