To all those experiencing vampiro withdrawals (myself included), fear not! They shall return in all their garlicky goodness on Wednesday, February 15th when Mexicali Taco & Co. opens its brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown LA. If you’re a Mexicali newbie, prepare to get grubbing.
Two and a half years ago, best friends Esdras Ochoa and Javier Fregoso found themselves craving a taste of home and took matters (and meats) into their own hands, opening a taco stand-- the Mexicali Taco & Co. The duo set up shop in a parking lot on 1st and Beaudry and quickly gained a loyal fan base with their simple, delicious and reasonably priced menu items, including tacos and quesadillas. They were even voted as the best taco in LA. After issues arose with their lease, however, Esdras and Javier decided to upgrade Mexicali’s digs.
Last week, Esdras, Javier and their new business partner Paul Yoo offered a sneak peek of their new restaurant at a friends and family night.
With red picnic tables juxtaposed against the modern woodwork on the walls, Mexicali’s interior is a charming combination of their O.G. roots and a sleek look befitting the downtown space. The casual, communal feeling of the taco stand was so integral to the Mexicali experience that I was happy to see that the place wasn’t overly gussied up.
Central to the Mexicali Taco & Co. experience is the salsa and topping bar stocked with items such as pico de gallo (my personal favorite) and pickled onions and radishes.
One of my friends ordered nachos ($6.00), a new addition to the menu. These nachos had all the comfort of the ballpark variety but with a tastier and heartier kick because of the Mexicali fixings.
A menu staple is the cachetada ($3.00)-- a tostada topped with your choice of meat (carne asada, chicken or chorizo) and drizzled with an aioli chipotle sauce. We ordered one of each to maximize our enjoyment of the cachetadas’ unbeatable crunch.
Another new option is to order your dish "ranchero” style with a fried egg ($0.75) because a beautiful, runny yolk makes everything taste better.
For the indecisive who can’t choose just one type of meat, there’s the Zuperman ($4.75), a mix of chicken, chorizo and carne asada sandwiched between two tortillas.
Finally, there is my personal favorite-- the vampiro ($3.75), a garlic-infused quesadilla filled with your choice of meat. In my vampiros, I always opt for the carne asada, which, according to Street Gourmet LA, is the most authentic carne asada you'll find in LA.
For Mexicali's soft opening, Javier and Esdras recruited their friends from the Churro Borough, purveyors of churro ice cream sandwiches. J and I ordered a Spanish Latte version as well as an Horchata and loved the sugary crunch of the round, seashell-like churros as well as the flavorful ice cream.
Huge congratulations to Esdras and Javier on the restaurant’s opening. As a friend of these two wonderful guys, I’m so happy and so proud to see where they started and what their dream has become. Salud!
Mexicali Taco & Co.
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702 N. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012