Toby Wilson, former owner and head barista at Wedge Espresso on Glebe Point Road will swap Single Os for tacos next month when he opens Ghostboy Cantina, his first food-only concept in Sydney's popular Dixon House food court.
Wilson will take over a counter within the oldest (and his favourite) food court in Chinatown, serving a mix of Cantonese and Central American street food, with tacos the staple of the menu. "Tacos have had a pretty bad history in Sydney, and I want people to know how good they can be," he says.
Although Wilson is most well-known for his work behind the coffee machine, since his first barista role at St Honore in Mosman he has continually gravitated towards writing menus and taking care of what's on the plate, as well as what's in the cup.
The main offering at Ghostboy will be three to five tacos - but not the kind you'd expect, and certainly not the kind you've ever seen in Sydney before. "We have pretty poor access to traditional ingredients like good masa flour and tomatillos, so I'll be looking to use the produce we do have," Wilson says. "The idea is to have no ties to authenticity and care only about deliciousness. If I feel like using ingredients from Iran or Belize or Darwin, then I will."
The name Ghostboy, Wilson says, comes from, "one of two translations of gwai lo - meaning white person or foreigner in Cantonese." It's a slang term, and Wilson is aware his tenancy might ruffle a few feathers.
The cantina will make the most of Korean and Cantonese sauces, Vietnamese herbs, Peking-style pancakes in place of tortillas and more uncommon cuts of meat such as mutton, lamb belly, chicken skin and pigs' ears. "Offal is true to both Mexican and Chinese cultures, and it's something I'd like to coerce the masses to get eating," says Wilson.
Other dishes will include Wilson's "Mexicongee" - lime, herbs, chilli and salsa in a chicken congee - and soon-to-be Friday afternoon favourites like chipotle and Sichuan pepper fries, and Peking-style nuggets.
Although the shop isn't licensed, Wilson secured the counter for Ghostboy Cantina directly across from the food court's bar, so you can still "get sauced on Tooheys", he says, while knocking back some tacos.
How long will he stay? Most likely six months to a year, depending on how Sydney warms to the concept, he says. "I know that's not super helpful, but I'll kind of roll with it and see how it goes."
Ghostboy Cantina, Dixon House food court, cnr Little Haymarket and Dixon sts, Haymarket, NSW. Open Tues-Sun 11am-8:30pm.