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Joe Leis, Joe’s Taco Lounge

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  • Location:

    Mill Valley, California, USA (Map)

  • Status:

    Extant

  • Artist:
  • Built:

    begun 1992

Visiting Information

Hours: Sundays to Thursdays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Street parking is available. 



About the Artist/Site

Born in a tough neighborhood of South Philly, PA to a poor Russian Jewish father and an Israeli immigrant mother, Leis studied business and philosophy at Temple University but, with two credits left prior to graduation, he dropped out of school and away from his betrothed girlfriend. He took up the guitar and played in local coffee houses, did drugs, and traveled across the country enjoying a hippiesque lifestyle. He avoided being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War by convincing the draft board that he was crazy; after that he crossed the border into Mexico, where he lived for some time. During that period, he became enamored of the food and culture. He also spent time in India, becoming a disciple of macrobiotic guru Michio Kushi. Here he met Bonnie Pomeroy, who became the mother to his son and daughter. After a stint as a “doctor” in Calcutta, he met Marni, who he married in 1979. They moved to San Francisco in 1980 and began running a couple of small restaurants in the Bay Area.

In 1992 he signed a lease on the current site of his Mexican restaurant in downtown Mill Valley, Marin County, California, changing its character from a greasy spoon breakfast joint. He and his wife worked for months to unearth a “terra cotta cement” floor underneath the cruddy linoleum tiles, and found a wood-beamed ceiling above the sagging acoustic ceiling tiles. Marni haunted the local flea markets and amassed an incredible selection of Mexican folk art and kitsch, much of which has been installed on the wall of the restaurant, augmented with Christmas lights and altars and enhanced with brightly painted walls.

Following Joe’s death in 2003, his wife and children continue to manage and care for the restaurant, which is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Street parking is available.

Hours: Sundays to Thursdays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

~Jo Farb Hernández



Map and site information

382 Miller Avenue
Mill Valley, California, United States
Latitude/Longitude: 37.897176 / -122.537071

Visiting Information

Hours: Sundays to Thursdays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Street parking is available. 



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