Before the chorus of “no mas” begins at the news of yet another Mexican restaurant opening on Capitol Hill, take a step back and imagine you are in the shoes of Misael Dominguez and David Gradwohl. You’ve both been part of the restaurant industry for years. You’ve managed Mexican restaurants that ascended into the foodie hype zone. And, as Dominguez, you’ve seen your home cuisine escalated into very successful Seattle businesses backed by deep-pocketed investors.
“A lot of people say they have a Mexican restaurant — we’ll have the real thing from the south,” Dominguez tells CHS.
The first-time restauranteur and his business partner Gradwohl have hired the mariachi band and will open La Cocina Oaxaquena to the public for the first time for dinner Thursday.
But, while he is eager to succeed in a venture he can finally call his own, Dominguez says he looks at the wave of Mexican restaurants upscale, low scale and in between as a good development for La Cocina Oaxaquena’s business.
“It’s good to have many options,” he said. “And it’s good to have some place to go when I want to eat,” he said, laughing.
The mouthful that is La Cocina Oaxaquena has been built out in the space formerly home to Pho Tai at Melrose and Pine. CHS first reported on the early word on the project in February (we also tallied the current population of Mexican-focused restaurants). The restaurant will stay focused on dinner — and drinks — only to start, opening 4p-2a daily. The kitchen will probably close around midnight during the week. Expect food including tacos, moles and entomatadas until later on the weekends. Expect the giant new bar to be ready to serve. Also expect the restaurant’s patio to be full of people again.
The opening comes a few months prior and only a few blocks away from another new Oaxacan project we reported on last week. Mezcaleria Oaxaca will expand to Capitol Hill later this summer. It’s part of the Carta la Oaxaca family — the Ballard restaurant that put the region on Seattle’s tongues as a new brand of the familiar cuisine. Dominguez previously managed the Ballard restaurant. Now he and Gradwohl are ready to open their own take on the food Dominguez grew up with.
“Oaxacan means good food to people,” Dominguez said. “Oaxacan means authentic.”
UPDATE: Did you visit Oaxaquena on opening night? Mariachi Fiesta Americana did: