Mexican restaurateurs Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu were onto something big when they decided to open up their traditional Mexican food concept, La Casita Mexicana, a small jewel box of a restaurant in Bell in 1999. Fast forward to La Casita Mexicana now, with its excellent preparations of traditional Mexican antojitos that has earned the cooking duo framed recognitions enough to cover more than one wall and a loyal patronage of both visiting Mexican elite and local families.
So now comes a second location, something much bigger than the tiny restaurant in Bell. In fact, it's three projects: a 105-seat restaurant, a bar and a food-court stand, all in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
Mexicano is a large, formal restaurant and a bar stocked with regional Mexican agave liquors, Baja wines and Mexican beer. It's expected to open in December.
There will be no pre-made chips and salsa but instead freshly fried tortilla chips to smear with creamy beans, queso, pickled jalapeños and carrots. The exact menu is still being developed, but count on a no-nonsense list showcasing Del Campo and Arvizu's humble Jalisco upbringing and seasoned travels throughout Mexico. Jalisco classics like carne en su jugo, thin sliced beef cooked in a tart and spicy tomatillo broth then mixed with beans and bacon, and torta ahogadas, Guadalajara's sturdy carnitas sandwich drowned in an extra spicy salsa, with a Yucatan dish or two, Veracruz-style enchiladas and some Northern Mexico dishes thrown in too.
Also, expect other regional classics like dried shrimp ceviche, albondiga meatball soup and made-to-order tamales. There will also be Casita-quality chiles rellenos and other namesake dishes from their flagship restaurant.
Mexicano's bar, La Esperanza, will be a nostalgic ode to Arvizu's grandparents, who owned a paleta shop in Mexico through his childhood. There will be around 20 paleta-themed cocktails spiked with either tequila, mezcal, sotol, raicilla and bacanora to complement base paleta flavors like guava, tamarind and hibiscus. Five of these cocktails will be seasonal and rotated in through the year.
If this sounds overwhelming, you'll be able to consult with Mexicano's roaming Mezcalier. An antojeria menu is filled with drinking foods like guacamole al tequila and cueritos ceviche (pickled pigskin). And there is capirotada, Mexican bread pudding, for dessert.
Mexicano will share a connected kitchen with Flautas, Del Campo and Arvizu's quick-service restaurant counter accessible through the shopping center's food court area. Flautas will specialize in various tacos dorados, Mexico's easy-to-eat fried crispy taquitos. With eight traditional filling options including shredded pork, chicken, beef picadillo in guajillo salsa, barbacoa and creamy potato.
3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles.