State College

Lebanese-Spanish fusion spot brings street food flair to State College

Yallah Taco opened on Thursday behind the Shandygaff on East Calder Way.
Yallah Taco opened on Thursday behind the Shandygaff on East Calder Way.

Near the intersection of Calder Way and McAllister Alley, curious passersby stopped in front of a blue-and-yellow facade, grabbing their tacos a day before Tuesday, as music blared overhead.

Yallah Taco, the latest downtown bite, opened Thursday, offering up Latin American-style fare with a bit of a twist.

“It’s like if Arabic food and Mexican food got married,” said Nader Alfares, 21, before biting into a chicken burrito. (It got his seal of approval.)

Though part of a building, Yallah’s street grub feel at a college budget — everything on the menu is $7 or less at this point — evokes food carts found in New York or Philadelphia. Alfares’ burrito, for instance, was $5.

Owner Hitham Hiyajneh said there are plans to add quesadillas and empanadas in the near future, and nachos in the next couple of days.

“Our food is going to be South American with a Lebanese fusion,” he said, echoing Alfares. “Like Arabic and Spanish food blended together.”

The eatery, which takes its name from the Arabic phrase for “let’s go,” was previously planned to be El Taccorito. But the new moniker combines the mix of flavors and culture that Hiyajneh wanted to represent in his food.

Yallah Taco is the fifth and latest venture for Hiyajneh, whose family also owns Underground Burger and Crepe, Pita Cabana Grill, the recently opened The Melt Shack and the forthcoming Tazzah salad and juice bar, which is set to open next week.

The eatery’s hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Already, the spot has drawn interest. Though quaint, it’s alive with color and sound.

“People are taking pictures of the place and posting to Instagram,” he said, laughing. “We don’t even have an Instagram account.”

Then there’s the taste, too.

“If you make good food, people will find it,” he said.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy