Thirty-eight years and 24 restaurants ago, David and Lesley Cohn founded Cohn Restaurant Group. Part of their collection, Tacos Libertad—the city’s only not-for-profit restaurant—is celebrating its second anniversary this month. We speak to the Cohns about two successful years of giving back.
Cohn Restaurant Group founders David and Lesley Cohn
Which charities are on your radar right now?
In the last 12 months, we’ve supported amazing organizations such as Voices for Children, the California Innocence Project, Girls on the Run, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, BurritoBoyz, San Diego Surfrider and Connor’s Cause.
What excites you most about the current state of San Diego’s culinary scene?
The number of talented, energetic, young chefs who are moving to San Diego. We’re currently excited to be working on new projects with Daniel Boulud’s protégé, Travis Swikard, and former L.A. French Consulate chef Samuel Geffroy.
How do you plan on celebrating Taco Libertad’s two-year anniversary?
With great tacos, more giving and a creative cocktail from our speakeasy behind Tacos Libertad, Caché.
How do you see the introduction of the Michelin Guide changing the restaurant scene?
It means that we’ve arrived—and the world is finally taking notice of the culinary talent in San Diego County.
What is the biggest positive change you have seen in San Diego’s restaurant industry over the last three decades?
There has been a resurgence in the neighborhood dining scene, and many young chefs have landed here and are creating a very exciting and in-demand culinary destination.
Why did you decide to create a nonprofit restaurant?
We had heard about a nonprofit restaurant in the Portland area, but their model was a little different, as one could pick a charity as they ordered. We felt we could create a bigger impact to the smaller nonprofits if there was one larger amount provided. We guarantee a minimum of $3,000 per charity per month, and there have been quite a few that have doubled that amount. Since we opened, we have donated a little over $78,000.
Photography by: Becca Teal Batista