This image is provided by Condado Tacos.

Graffiti Alley has become one of Ann Arbor’s most popular landmarks. An ever-changing sight, this alley is a celebration of graffiti in American culture (and the quintessential background for “accepted and going” Instagram posts). An extension of this historic emblem is soon to open at 401 E. Liberty Street — Condado Tacos arrives at the heart of campus with original hand-painted, graffiti-style mural works created by local Detroit-based artists.

Established in Columbus, Ohio in 2014, Condado has since been expanding in a tasteful manner (quite literally). Ann Arbor becomes home to the 30th restaurant and the fifth in Michigan. Besides having a reputation for its margaritas and for its “low-lit, hip ambience,” as one Facebook user put it, this restaurant becomes a melting pot where flavors mingle with colors. 

Themed “The University of Yum,” Condado Tacos is currently being painted by several artists who hope to mesh their signature style with the history of Ann Arbor. The walls emulate the feeling of walking and observing the art at Graffiti Alley, though now with the additional benefit of being surrounded by the sweet smell of freshly cooked tortillas, chili and cinnamon. 

At “Server Alley,” those stimuli are especially potent. Detroit-raised artist Oleg Kolbasov, aka Animal Money, has sought to create an energizing tunnel for the workers at Condado. I had the chance of stealing a few minutes of Animal Money’s time for an in-person interview with The Michigan Daily while he developed his piece at the new location to talk about the opportunity. 

Oleg Kolbasov is a University of Michigan alum who graduated from the Stamps School of Art and Design in 2011. Since then, he has lived in San Francisco, New Orleans and Utah as a freelance graphic designer while developing his interest in mural painting and creating a unique dark surrealist style. He strives to illustrate “the push and pull spectrum of human essence, and the nature of our connections with each other,” as he puts it in his personal website

The artist at work. Image by Cecilia Duran.

Kolbasov described the Detroit mural scene as “blossoming.” Mural painting is precisely what brought him back to his roots here in Michigan. The Russian-born artist spoke about commissioned works as a way to bring his personal essence to an external project — although he aims to be hired to create works that fully encapsulate his Animal Money psyche. The artist talked about his love for Graffiti Alley, a place of “chaos” and ephemeral creations and one where community is built.

His piece at the restaurant was a last-minute commission that he described as a “push and pull process” and one he estimates will take five days to complete. The brick texture, and the addition of characters emblematic of the Alley such as the moon-man and the ghost peppers, are his way of bringing his hyperrealistic style to the cartoon nature of Condado Tacos’ stamp.

Rendering of the Mural. Courtesy of Animal Money.

Condado Tacos offers the medium that allows local artists to showcase their art in relation to a specific region and a collective purpose. In an email sent by their PR Manager, Condado Taco announced that the night before the grand opening on March 3, 2022, the restaurant plans to host a fundraising “Community Night” where 100% of proceeds go to students at the Art & Design School. Condado aims to stimulate the palette — both gustatory and chromatic — so make sure to swing by Ann Arbor’s latest culinary addition for a multisensorial experience.

Daily Arts Writer Cecilia Duran can be reached at