Mexico City-style street tacos are coming to Midtown and Oak Forest. Downtown taqueria La Calle will add two new locations in 2021, owner Ramon Soriano Tomka tells CultureMap.
Later this spring, La Calle will open its second location in the Bagby Park kiosk that was once home to Rico's Morning + Noon + Night. A third will follow in Re:vive Development’s Ella Oaks shopping center in late summer or early fall.
Open since 2016, La Calle serves tacos inspired by Tomka's favorite taquerias from his childhood growing up in Mexico City. The combination of a straightforward menu of classic fillings, such as carnitas, pastor, and barbacoa, being open from breakfast to late night, and reasonable prices has made the restaurant a hit. Despite the pandemic, sales were still up year-over-year.
In 2019, Tomka began preparing to grow La Calle by adding Fernando Villegas as a partner. An industry veteran who has served in high-level positions such as CEO of Burger King in Mexico, Villegas brings lots of experience operating multiple units.
Tomka’s plans for his Midtown outpost have changed since CultureMap first reported on the project in 2019. Instead of adding a second story, La Calle will add a shipping container bar at the rear of the kiosk. It won’t look as dramatic, but the change decreased the project’s cost considerably. Even without a rooftop bar, the new La Calle will still be an outdoor dining space that enhances the recently-renovated park while serving both area residents and Midtown's nightlife revelers.
“You’ll be able to sit with a full bar, there will be the park,” Tomka says. “We’re putting a 6-foot by 4-foot screen facing on the park side to show music videos and sporting events.”
Like its downtown sibling, the Midtown location will stay open late, potentially until 4 am — perfect for anyone looking for a little sustenance after a night at any of the nearby bars.
The Oak Forest restaurant will occupy the space originally slated to become a fast casual spin-off of Montrose favorite La Mexicana. Tomka says he observed the location prior to signing the lease and is impressed by how busy the intersection of Ella Boulevard and 34th St. is.
“I’ve been there at 7 am, 2 pm, 1 am, and that corner is amazing. There’s always traffic in every direction,” he says. “We see that being very strong for breakfast, a strong lunch and pretty good happy hour.”
Whether Oak Forest will stay open late will depend on customer interest, but Tomka has secured the ability to operate 24-hours a day.
“If we can keep it up 24 hours, we will, because there’s nothing around there for late night. You have to go to The Heights,” he notes.
Like downtown, it will have a full liquor license but will not have a dedicated cantina. Instead, he envisions sales as being more oriented towards to-go than dine-in.
La Calle’s third location will also have a new, more sophisticated design. Whereas Tomka created the downtown restaurant’s street stand-style appearance on his own, he’s turned to local firm Norton Creative to give Oak Forest a more polished look.