On the Friday of Sioux Falls Pride in June 2022, Doug Sager and Abe Castro opened Flying Santo Taco Bar on Phillips Avenue downtown.
The couple had moved to Sioux Falls in 2020 from Oakland, CA.
“When we first moved here, we were inspired to bring a different flavor of Mexico to Sioux Falls,” said Sager.
They’d been on the lookout for a place to open the taco bar, and when a spot opened in the Jones 421 Building downtown, Flying Santo found a home.
“THIS HAS BEEN ONE WAY FOR US TO BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY OF SIOUX FALLS THAT WELCOMED US WITH OPEN ARMS OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS.” – ABE CASTRO
Sager, a realtor with 20 years of front- of-house restaurant experience, and Castro, a Sonora, Mexico native with a career in pharmaceuticals, combined their interests to make what Sager refers to as their “labor of love.”
The name Flying Santo is a unique amalgamation of the pair’s interests, but it was only arrived at after an initial rejection from their local trademark attorney. The restaurant’s first name was turned down due to a lack of originality, so the pair began to brainstorm.
Sager, a self proclaimed “wrestling nerd,” knew he wanted to incorporate the sport into the theme. To combine wrestling and Mexican food, he thought of Lucha Libre, a type of professional masked wrestling originating in Mexico.
LUCHA LIBRE LORE
A form of professional wrestling developed in Mexico in which competitors wear colorful masks.
A person who competes in lucha libre wrestling.
A Mexican luchador, actor, and folk hero
JIMMY “SUPERFLY” SUNKA:
A Fijian American professional wrestler active from the 1970s to the 2010s.
A prolific Lucha Libre wrestler, Sager explained, was El Santo, or “The Saint.” The masked icon is a Mexican hero—as famous, Castro notes, as Marvel’s Avengers.
Yet Sager had another childhood hero: the wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, nicknamed as such because of his acrobatics in the ring.
In an inspired tangent, Sager asked, “What if we took the flying part of ‘Superfly’ and added it to ‘The Saint’ and came up with Flying Santo Taco Bar?”
“The trademark attorney said, ‘Yeah, there’s nothing like that,’” remembered Sager.
Carne Asada Burrito
Carne Asada Taco
Loaded with all toppings
The pair also wanted to stand out in the local food scene, and instantly found a place for themselves.
“There’s classic Mexican food,” said Sager, “but not niche Mexican food.” Flying Santo aimed to change that.
“It’s a blend between Northern Mexico and California,” said Castro of the taste palate. “I don’t think I can separate the two.”
Despite the geographic complexities, Sager and Castro describe the menu as “friendly.”
“You will see the ingredients in front of you,” said Castro, “and any time that you come back we want to make sure you can have the same experience.”
At Flying Santo, everything is made to order, even the taco tortilla.
“I want every person that lives here to give us a try.” – Doug Sager
“It’s one of the things that sets us apart from other restaurants,” said Castro, who bought the tortilla maker in Mexico and had it shipped to the states. “We make the tortilla right in front of you.”
The menu consists of tacos, burritos, bowls, quesadillas, and nachos–all customizable with different meats and toppings to the customer’s preference. A variety of drinks, sides, and breakfast options are also available.
The taco bar is easily identifiable in the Jones Building by the two murals painted by Jillian Gunlicks of Jillian Artistry.
The external mural is an ode to El Santo and other Lucha Libre wrestlers. Castro explains that it was originally inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art portraits of Marilyn Monroe. The mural on the restaurant’s interior depicts El Santo in the ring, painted with hues of blue and pink that Sager states are reminiscent of Miami.
Though they are new to Sioux Falls, Sager and Castro say that they’ve been welcomed with open arms.
“People come for the first time and we get such good feedback,” said Sager. “I think it’s really because they haven’t been exposed to this concept that isn’t a chain.”
The pair is also keen on incorporating the feedback they get from the community.
“As things evolve with the restaurant, we’re going to find that perfect blend that people love, locally, and still preserve the authenticity of what we’re trying to do,” said Castro.
As the restaurant completes its first year of business, Castro and Sager are excited to continue to get involved and share their food with the area.
“It’s a different experience than anything you’re going to have,” said Sager, “and you’ll come back for it. We’re confident that you will.”
For more information, visit FLYINGSANTO.COM.