With “Better Call Saul” season three right around the corner, dropping April 10th on AMC, the show is doing some pretty serious marketing for the show. The show surprised us all with news that the bone-chilling character Gustavo Fring was returning this season via a trailer that was a commercial for the fictional restaurant “Pollos Hermanos.” Now they’ve gone a step further, erecting pop-up shop slash restaurants in Downtown Los Angeles and in New York City.
The “Pollos Hermanos” restaurant from “Breaking Bad” has a pop-up shop currently in LA and is coming soon to NYC. It’s outfitted to look exactly like the fictional franchise.
They’re even going so far as to serve actual food. Unfortunately, based on reporting via LAist, there won’t be any chicken, just curly fries and dipping sauces. And hopefully some cool “Better Call Saul” swag and some amazing Instagram photo opportunities.
You definitely want to hurry as the lines are already getting crazy. Like, really crazy.
When Luis Octavio, 36, and Gladys Vasquez, 40, met in 2016 they thought of a crazy idea. Both were struggling vendors trying to make a name for themselves but could never find the right event to get their names out there. Octavio sold his line of embroidered hats and balloons, while Vasquez had her graphic design brand.
“When Luis asked me if there was an event solely dedicated to Latino vendors I said ‘No’ and then an idea dawned on us,” Vasquez said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why isn’t there an event or space catered just for Latino vendors?.”
That crazy idea became a reality this month as both Octavio and Vaquez opened up Molcajete Dominguero Tienda, a retail space in Boyle Heights solely dedicated for Latino vendors to sell their products.
They wanted to create a space for Latino brands to promote and elevate themselves.
Octavio had a marketing background and Vasquez had some experience with accounting, so together they knew they could make this a reality. With only $50 invested from each of them, Molcajete Dominguero Tienda started as a monthly pop-up event on Sundays in 2017. They would host vendors that would sell everything from Latino-inspired jewelry to concha themed pillows.
But everything didn’t start off so smoothly. Initially there was skepticism from vendors about how all this would work. Many didn’t know what to think of their idea of an all-Latino popup event and if their products would even sell.
“We reached out to probably 100 vendors and only 35 responded,” Vasquez said recalling their first popup at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights. “We didn’t really know what we were doing and didn’t know if a single person was gonna walk through that door.”
Those fears quickly left as they saw a forming line of about 30 people. By the end, they had well over 450 people attend their first popup event. “We couldn’t believe it and it was in that moment our hard work, in a way, felt validated,” Vasquez said.
Things only went up from there. Octavio and Vasquez began hosting monthly popups across Los Angeles and even in San Francisco. Their brand quickly grew on Instagram and realized they needed a permanent space for their business.
In just two years, they became the largest Latino popup in the country and now have a retail space dedicated to Latino brands.
The vision that Vasquez and Octavio had in 2016 has become a reality. From Selena pillows to Frida Kahlo fanny-packs, Molcajete Dominguero Tienda gives Latino vendors a space to showcase their brands. The name, Molcajete Dominguero, is a play on words from the traditional Mexican stone tool used to grind various food products. It is also a representation of the various vendors they bring together on Sundays at their popups.
Their current database has over 400 vendors from LA to San Francisco that either have their products sold at the store or at popups. Vendors typically pay $150 to have a space at a popup event and get promoted on their Instagram page.
“We feel like this is important to so many people that feel like they don’t see themselves when they go into big retailers,” Octavio said. “We want people to come in here and feel at home. Whether it’s the colorful wall murals, the fresh smell of Fabuloso or the familiar sound of Spanish music playing, we’re trying to create something special.”
Having the store in Boyle Heights is no coincidence. The largely Latino working class community has welcomed and embraced their business.
The location of the store in Boyle Heights has great meaning. Vasquez grew up in East LA and Octavio in Santa Ana, so both know the importance of having a business in a predominant Latino neighborhood. They say that many community members have welcomed them and have been getting regulars at the store already.
“This business is needed especially in a place like Boyle Heights where identity is important,” Octavio said. “These brands need a home and we feel like they found one here in East LA.”
Their grand opening this month was an indicator of their success as well over 500 people showed up. Octavio said there was a line around the block and people waited almost two hours in the rain just to get in.
A local community artist has already left their mark at the store with a mural of Mexican singer Maria Felix. There is already future plans to have two more artists paint murals outside the store. Octavio also hopes to host various workshops that will benefit the youth in the area as well. Earlier this year they hosted a Pinata making workshop and a Loteria night for the community.
“We need these spaces like this so we could feel apart of something. Tell me where you can find a pinata or a serape wall,” Octavio said. “People here in Boyle Heights now can go to a place where they can find Salvadorian, Puerto Rican or Mexican goods all in one.”
Having a brick and mortar store is just the first step of many to come.
The store has been a dream come true for Octavio and Vasquez that they say happened by just taking a risk on what they envisioned three years ago.
“Look we’re not the first to have a pop-up or a Latino-inspired one, however we are the first to think of this on a larger scale,” Octavio said. “The inspiration has always been to elevate our comunidad.”
The business partners say this is just the next step in what they envisioned for Molcajete Dominguero Tienda. They will soon be taking their popup to Chicago this year and hope to get some vendors hop on board from the East Coast. There has even been plans to have an online business with some vendor products but for now the store is their main focus.
Vasquez says the most humbling part about this entire journey has been building a relationship with vendors. “Getting to know about the people behind the brand and hearing their story makes this all worth it because we know how much this platform means to them as much as it does to us.”
It’s because of this sentiment that the store recently changed their tagline from “Where vendors grind together” to “Where brands grind together”. Octavio says this is more than just about one person, it’s about uplifting a community of people and seeing them all rise together.
“We’re not calling them vendors anymore. They’re brands and we’re trying to elevate them,” Octavio said. “Big box retailers we no longer need your space because we’re now creating our own.”
Molcajete Dominguero Tienda is located in 2195 Whittier Blvd. in Boyle Heights.
For Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi, Hot Cheetos aren’t just chips but a relic of his childhood he still loves today. He can still remembers his first bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. When the spicy snack first came out, he grabbed a bag from his local liquor store and instantly knew this was something special.
“I was hooked right away and I’ve been lovin’ the Puffs ever since.” Choi says.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Choi decided to team up with Cheetos to create the Flamin’ Hot Spot, a three-day pop-up restaurant in LA with dishes made with—you guessed it—Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Nearly 10,000 people were on the restaurant wait list and reservations were booked full in under an hour.
CREDIT: credit: Javier Rojas / mitú
The first Cheetos pop-up restaurant, The Spotted Cheetah, debuted in New York City last year, reservations sold out in minutes and the waitlist racked up thousands of names. The success of the event prompted a sequel in the the Flamin’ Hot Spot. Choi’s goal was to try to incorporate some of his restaurants’ most popular dishes like the Kogi burrito and Chego meatballs with Hot Cheetos.
Choi’s Cheetos mashups are your junk food dreams.
credit: Javier Rojas / mitú
“Some of the dishes are reinterpretations of dishes from [my restaurants] Kogi and Chego,” Choi said. “We made the Ooey-goey fries that came from Chego and instead of the fries we used Hot Cheeto puffs.”
He says they’ve tapped into the hottest food trend around – literally. Choi’s goal was to make the chips a core part of all the dishes. From pancakes made with Hot Cheeto batter to milkshakes with Cheeto dust on the rim.
“Everything about spiciness and challenges and everybody upping their game on things that is fairly new, and a lot of people have been using it, but they’re using it more as like a garnish. We tried to really look at it like, ‘How do we use it as the full ingredient?'” Choi explained.
From Hot Cheeto Fries to Hot Cheeto Milkshakes, it was everything a Cheeto fan could ask for.
CREDIT: credit: Javier Rojas / mitú
The menu had appetizers like Flamin’ Hot Elotes and Chipotle Hot Wings battered in Hot Cheetos that tasted just as good as they sound. If steak is your thing than the pop-up restaurant had you covered with the $32 Five-Alarm Cheetos Steak that was rib-eye steak with sprinkled Hot Cheeto seasoning salt on top. For desert, Choi created the “Hot” Chocolate Shake which was chocolate ice cream, raspberries and crushed Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Puffs on the rim.
There’s good news for people that didn’t get the chance to visit the restaurant as Choi said many of the menu items will live on as specials at his other restaurants.
“We already have such a huge fanbase with Kogi and Chego and I already know they love Hot Cheetos so I thought let me just make their late-night dreams come true,” Choi said. “That was the premise behind this all.”
The restaurant was fully decked out in Cheetos decor and style.
CREDIT: credit: Javier Rojas / mitú
“Everything about this restaurant from the artwork, the food and the menu is all because of the fans,” Choi said. “We wanted to create an experience like no other.”
The restaurant is a childhood dream come true for Choi who loves the spicy snack.
CREDIT: credit: Javier Rojas / mitú
Choi was raised in LA credits growing up in southern California played a big part in his cooking style because of the diversity. Many of his restaurants menu include Korean-Mexican food items that are inspired by LA’s Latino food culture.
“Everywhere I go in LA you’ll find someone that loves Hot Cheetos and they always ask me when am I gonna incorporate it into my menu, well here we are.” Choi said.
The Flamin’ Hot Spot is a dream come true for Choi and for all his past projects this one has a special place in his heart. “You know I’m from LA and this is what we eat.”