Sliding into the evolving sector of Second Street establishments, Tableseide Restaurant Group’s newest addition, Circo, brings an unexpected combo to the table. The taco and bourbon joint integrated a niche of artisan tacos—paired with something other than tequila. With a notable whiskey following in the area, including the members-only group known as the Sarasota Whiskey Society and many local bars focusing on their selection of bottled batches, CEO Joe Seidensticker took note of an opportunity. Focusing on rare and interesting bourbons, Circo creates riffs off classic tequila drinks, swapping the spirit for a twist on traditional Mexican. Circo also pivoted in a different direction to offer more funky craft tacos instead.

The menu assembled by Executive Chef Francisco Alvarez hosts an Epcot of around-the-world artisanal tacos from the Thai Shrimp, tempura flash-fried shrimp with Napa slaw, mango salsa, pickled peppers, cilantro, honey-sambal aioli and tempura scallion threats, to The Cubano, filled with mojo pork, lettuce, cheddar cheese, house pickles, pickled peppers and a honey mustard dijonnaise. The Korean Pork reps some kimchee slaw, pickled fresno’s and an “angry” crema, while the Mongolian Beef fills the tortilla with shredded beef, hoisin BBQ, sambal sesame slaw, scallion threads, cilantro and toasted sesame seeds. A Hawaiian-inspired Ahi Poke taco trades the flour tortilla for a crispy wonton shell and packs in fresh raw tuna, cucumber, wakame, masago, wasabi crema, inamona jus and sesame seeds, while a Middle Eastern–inspired Edamame Falafel hosts tzatziki, arugula, tomato, avocado slices, pickled peppers, onion and cotija cheese. And whether you think the British have good food or not, the Fish & Chips taco does the trick, with beer-battered tempura cod, malt-curry mayo, Napa slaw, pea tendrils and french fry crisps.

Quite possibly, the most hyped taco on the menu is the Southern draw of the Chicken & Biscuit “taco.” Diversifying the typical shell or wrap of a standard taco, this fella comes served in a heated buttermilk biscuit with hand-breaded/flash-fried tenders, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise, pea tendrils, pickled red onion and a hot honey drizzle. So as not to forget where the sacred origin of the creation of tacos even came from, Circo dedicates its dessert to Mexico, with Homemade Churros, served with an apple caramel filling and a mole chocolate fondue for sinfully sweet dippage. A flavor-packed Mexican Street Corn also makes its way onto the menu, juiced with lime aioli then rolled in cotija cheese and hot smoked paprika for a roundhouse kick to the mouth. 

Shaking up the house margarita a bit, Circo incorporates Four Roses Bourbon instead of tequila—though guests who like their agave-based spirit can definitely still order a traditional margarita. With Cazadores Blanco, fresh hand-pressed lime and orange juice, take advantage of margaritas “by the jug,” which serves five glasses worth of cocktail in a prefixed personal jug container. For a lip-puckering salted rim, choose from either a pink Himalayan, sriracha smoked or a chili lime salt rim.

And in true renegade spirit, Harrison Sherry, general manager of Circo, advises not to be shy getting up from the table to find the sacred black binder—adorned front and back with stickers and filled with pages of high-end bourbon, tequila and mezcal options that’ll surely test your decision-making skills. Among other books arbitrarily laying around the cozy lounge to grab and flip through, eclectic and random titles span from Whiskeypedia and The Little Book of Senior Moments, to 3,000 Would You Rather Questions and Dad Jokes.

Tabletop pool, UNO cards and a Deadpool arcade machine also tempt guests to indulge in some youthful game time. Meanwhile, 90s hip-hop plays throughout the livened room of rustic wood furnishings, metal cactus statues and a damn good time. “It’s not just a place to eat,” says Seidensticker, “but a place to meet and socialize, watch a game, read a book, listen to music, play pinball, all while enjoying unique beverages and chef-crafted food.”   SRQ    

Circo. 1435 2nd St., Sarasota, 941-253-0978,, @circosrq.