As regular readers of this blog should recall, the new mixed-use project at 1600 South Street being built by a development team that includes Noah Ostroff, the sponsor of this blog, was to have a restaurant as its commercial tenant.
We can now tell you the name of that restaurant.
Calexico, the Brooklyn-born restaurant run by California expats that’s taken New York by storm, will establish a Philly beachhead on the ground floor of 1600 South Street, adding yet another international dimension to Graduate Hospital’s South Street West restaurant row.
If you’ve never heard of Calexico, it’s a dusty border town in California’s Imperial Valley, on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border. It and its Mexican twin, Mexicali, form a single city whose residents and culinary influences both mix and mingle.
The three amateur cooks who started Calexico hail from there. Transplanted to New York but pining for the cuisine of their hometown, they decided to satisfy their cravings by cooking it themselves. Then they started cooking for their friends. They loved it and encouraged them to start a restaurant. Not sure that three hobbyist cooks could pull that off in New York, they opted to start with a taco cart instead.
You could say these guys anticipated the food truck trend, for their cart stood out at a time when mobile food in New York meant mainly pushcarts selling hot dogs, pretzels and egg creams. They soon found lines forming at their cart, and in their second year in business, they won a Vendy Award for Best Street Food in New York. After a few years of this, they changed their mind about opening a restaurant and set up shop in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood.
Diners generally give Calexico’s three restaurants and two carts high marks for flavor and preparation – “honestly healthy Mexican food, which is really hard to find,” said one Yelp reviewer. Even diners who are less impressed rave about the restaurant’s signature sauce: Calexico’s chipotle “crack sauce” lives up to its name – it’s highly addictive.
The restaurant will have a full liquor license and is slated to open in the fall.