By Pat Sherman
La Jolla Shores residents Bob and Kim Whitney are strengthening the bond in their community, one taco at a time.
For the past six years, the couple has hosted free “Taco Tuesday” events at their 4,100-square-foot home, which draw as many as 150 guests through e-mail invitations and word of mouth.
“The Whitneys put on the best Taco Tuesdays ever,” effused neighbor Lisa Olson. “You never know who you’re going to meet; you never know who you’re going to have dinner with.”
The couple hire a caterer to prepare fresh, Tijuana-style street tacos, also offering salads, beverages, a sundae bar and plenty of opportunities for camaraderie by the pool or tennis court. Many guests arrive bearing bottles of fine wine.
“Bob Whitney is such a great host to allow this wonderful gathering every summer,” said Marlene Matheson, CEO of Site Lab Interactive, an online marketing firm located in The Shores. “I never get to see people in the community because I’m in that office all day. This just brings everybody together who wouldn’t know each other otherwise.”
The Whitneys began opening their home for carne asada and community building more than seven years ago while renting a more modest, 1,000-square foot home in The Village, mainly as a party for their two children, Bobby and Maggie, now ages 22 and 19, respectively.
Their current home boasts 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a billiards room and plenty of patio space.
“When we moved here we finally could have more people over,” said Kim Whitney, who whipped up the tacos herself during the first few years.
“I make a really good taco,” she said, “but my son’s friends can eat five or six at a time. I just couldn’t fry them up fast enough, so Bob hired somebody.
I wanted to be the house that the kids all come to,” Kim confided. “I think every parent wants that. When all my kids’ friends would come, I’d say, ‘bring your mom and dad,’ but it was up to them whether they wanted to invite their parents.”
However, as the Whitney children got older, they became conscious of hanging around adults, Kim said.
“They weren’t cool with it, so my husband went throughout the neighborhood and to all the businesses and said, ‘Please come; my wife is having all these tacos made,’” she said. “All the sudden, a lot of neighbors and a lot of business owners and merchants that we didn’t know (started coming). Each week they would bring somebody else.”
The Whitneys’ son, Bobby, has a different take on the evolution of Taco Tuesdays.
“At one point it blew up exponentially and not a lot of my friends could make it, so my parents went around inviting everybody,” he said. “It just turned into a local party.”
Taco Tuesdays began with three monthly parties, and eventually grew to seven weekly, summer soirées. This year the Whitneys scaled it back to three Taco Tuesdays, the last of which took place this week. Kim Whitney said she considered canceling Taco Tuesdays this year because their house is for sale. However, “peer pressure got the snowball rolling again,” her son said.
La Jolla Shores resident Mollie Malone lamented how increasing social isolation has dissolved the bond between neighbors in many communities. However, looking around the party, she added, “You could borrow a cup of sugar from any of these people.”
The Whitneys said they plan to remain in La Jolla Shores, and will continue Taco Tuesdays next summer.
“Maybe we’ll rent a place to do it ... or have Taco Tuesday on the beach,” Kim said. “Whoever buys this house, we’re going to tell them, ‘You have to have Taco Tuesdays here.’”