This Pop-Up Taco Shop Is A Secret Idea Accelerator

Now you can order a boost of creativity with your carne asada.

Inside a pop-up taqueria on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New Yorkers will soon be able to order coaching in creativity and prototyping along with their chicken tacos and beer. The shop is the creation of Design Gym, a community of creative thinkers who are trying to redefine the way people work.


“When you go to a coffee shop, you might see people trying to brainstorm and collaborate, trying to pitch ideas to their friends and get something started, but the truth is those spaces aren’t really designed for that type of interaction,” says Andy Hagerman, one of the founders.

“The moment someone walks in, we want to provide those checkpoints of inspiration so that by the time they sit down with their tacos they are just kind of chomping at the bit to build their own project,” he says.

The Design Taco shop will provide walk-in hours to help people to develop side projects (or just enjoy a taco), along with nightly events and daily two-hour workshops for small teams from startups or established companies.

Why disguise an idea accelerator as a taco shop? In part, the organizers say that it’s a setting that makes people comfortable and more willing to experiment than they might at work. It can even be helpful for companies that are used to a routine of whiteboards and brainstorming on Post-it notes in the office.

“People see creative companies and think that they’re able to have that creativity all the time–that there must be some special sauce that keeps them creative,” says Hagerman. “But the truth is those companies are always on the hustle looking for new ways to approach things. I think we’re going to find a lot of companies coming to us to use the inspiration you can get from a space like this to continue driving innovation.”

The taqueria will only be up for a week–the organizers are working with Made in the Lower East Side, a group that helps turn vacant storefronts in the neighborhood into pop-up shops, to open from May 12 to May 18. But though Design Gym also offers separate creativity workshops and events, they’re interested in the possibility of making a space like this a permanent outlet for creativity and collaboration.


“In the workshops we’ve had, a brain surgeon will be sitting next to a seventh-grade science teacher, next to an executive from a Fortune 500 company,” Hagerman says. “The conversations we’ve seen happen, with a little bit of coaching and facilitation, are incredible. We don’t think there are necessarily enough outlets or places for conversations like that to happen right now.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.