notes from the mexican kitchen

Announcing Cruz Blanca and Leña Brava

Ok, I’m ready to talk. You see, I’m kinda superstitious. Not like a lot of chefs who have a dream and announce it to the press. I like to see my flowers bud out first, before I say they’re going to bloom. Well, our Randolph Street project is about to bloom.

Within two months, we’re going to be offering what I think is some pretty cool stuff: Cruz Blanca Cervecería, a brewery inspired by Strasbourg native Emil Dercher’s 1869 Mexico City spot. We’re specializing in the Emil’s classic Biere de Garde, crafted as his was with local products. It’ll be a tasting room. And a taquería of sorts. If you can call Oaxaca’s famous “taco corridor” a taqueria. Oaxaca-style CruzBlancalogohalf-cured flank tasajo, red chile pork cecina and chorizo (plus chicken and portobellos — I think you know why) piled on a tray with wood-grilled peppers, knob onions, lime wedges. Smoky Oaxacan pasilla salsa, avocado salsa, crunchy pico de gallo, grilled nopal cactus, limey cucumbers. Handmade tortillas. All from about the tiniest kitchen you’ve ever seen. Beer making takes up a lot of space.

Here’s what you haven’t heard of: the restaurant next door. It’s called Leña Brava. I’ve spent a lot of time in the northern part of Baja California over the last decade. There are amazing wineries there, ones that keep winning awards everywhere. And there’s incredible seafood, and chefs who have risen up to join the ranks of the world’s best. And what ties all of them together is the grill, theLENABRAVA_LOGO hearth, the wood-fired oven. The primal, artless quality of what they’re feeding people. It’s a different Mexico, settled by Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Spanish, Russians and, of course, those whose heritage reaches back to the land’s original inhabitants. And we can’t deny the influence of Mexico’s nearby neighbor to the north. It’s an incredibly exciting place right now, full of surprises and satisfactions at every turn.

Though I’ll never waver in my love for Oaxaca (in fact, the bar at Leña is devoted to Oaxaca’s glorious spirit, mezcal), Baja California Norte has found a special place in my heart. Hopefully, when you taste our Baja-inspired menu with gorgeous yellowtail and opah and sea urchin and abalone from those fertile Baja waters, and you see that the kitchen is 100% wood-fired (not even a gas hook-up), and you savor the terroir-driven wines from the Valle de Guadalupe, well, you may understand why I love Baja so much.


  1. This is fantastic news. My husband and I, Lang with our ten year old daughter cannot wait to visit. Someone asked her last night “what is your favorite restaurant?” She quickly responded Topolobampo.

  2. Will any beers be available for sale in our local pub ,in INDIANA . I liked what you served on Windy City Live .. The hominy beer .. Will it be available in my local carry out liquor store .. Thank you for any info you can give me . I am a retired tavern owner .. Roger

    1. Hi Roger! Tocayo is available through Constellation! We currently do not have any other beers available for retail but plan to in the future!

  3. We’ve been watching your show on abc 7 ,here in L.A ,C.A .We love all the plates you cook . Would love to know if you have any Restaurants in the Los Angles area?

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