Baja Taco expansion under way

Remodel will bring more dining, storage space to popular restaurant

On a sunny November day, Andra and Nathan Doll take a break from their remodeling efforts at Baja Taco. The newly framed wall in the background is part of the expansion of the enclosed dining area. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

It began in 1989 as a place down near the harbor to purchase savory fish tacos.

Liz Pudwill had sampled this delicious fare while on vacation in Baja, Mexico, and decided to sell them in Cordova, using fresh fish from nearby waters. An old bus was outfitted as a kitchen, and what has evolved into one of Cordova’s most popular diners was born.

Over the years, the Baja Taco menu has expanded, as has the demand for its tasty items. In 2002, a larger bus was purchased and parked for good, with additions for eating both inside and outside added.

Stacks of building materials surround Baja Taco and its trademark red bus as work is under way to expand both dining and storage space for next year. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times

In the spring of 2004, Andra Doll started working for Pudwill. Turns out she was from Austin, Texas, and very familiar with Mexican food from working in kitchens there when she was 16.

In 2008, Doll bought the restaurant and has been managing its growing success ever since.  Each spring the opening of Baja Taco is greatly anticipated. Doll likes to start selling items featuring fresh local halibut, cod or rockfish; and beginning in May, salmon caught by her husband Nathan.

Baja Taco is a “must stop” place for locals and visitors, and now includes a popular breakfast menu for early risers that includes fisherman coming or going during Copper River openers.

Baja Taco has been featured in Sunset Magazine, chosen by Food Network Magazine for the Best Taco in Alaska, and listed in Alaska Magazine as one of the 50 Things to Do While Visiting in Alaska.

Locals rush to get their final taste of Baja before it closes each fall, and are naturally curious to know what is going on when they see recent piles of building materials and changes being made to what they regard as “their” place to eat.

Well, it turns out work is under way to expand both the inside dining area and storage facilities. Andra and Nathan Doll are busy trying to beat the snowflakes with a 300-square-foot expansion of the dining area that faces toward the harbor, plus adding 700-square-feet of space on the back to consolidate and improve refrigeration and storage space.

“This way we’ll be able to serve more people inside, plus get rid of the ugly green metal container we used for storage, as well as rented storage space elsewhere,” Andra said, who, donned in warm clothing, was helping her husband Nathan tear down the back of the old building.

The couple did pause briefly for a quick photo of the construction effort, which at that moment featured Nathan on the sledge hammer and Andra tossing debris into a nearby truck.

And rest assure — come springtime, Andra will be back in the bus, and Nathan out on his boat, working together to once again make Baja Taco, improved and expanded, the source of all that great service and marvelous Mexican fare.

Andra and Nathan Doll at work on the back and harbor side of Baja Taco, removing old material as part of the process of remodeling and upgrading the popular local diner. Photo by Dick Shellhorn/The Cordova Times
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Dick Shellhorn, author, reporter, ref and grandpa, can be reached at shorn@gci.net. Shellhorn was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska, and has lived there his entire life. He has been writing sports stories for the Cordova Times for over 40 years. In his Cordova Chronicles features, he writes about the history and characters of this Alaska town. Alaska Press Club awarded Shellhorn first place for Best Humor column in 2016 and third place in 2017.