On a seemingly quiet street in Downtown Oakland, 8th street between Washington and Broadway, a mother-son team, Gloria and Alfonso Dominguez, have figured out how to preserve their Mexican culture through food, and how to save a neighborhood in crisis during the disastrous economic downturn in 2008.
Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana is a lonchería in the heart of Downtown Oakland started by Alfonso Dominguez and his mother Gloria.
Credit: @Kiko454/ Instagram
Serving up traditional foods that head chef Gloria scours all of Mexico for, mother and son bring a unique and delicious flavor to a now vibrant neighborhood that was once falling apart. As she puts it, people used to tell her “The only thing that passes through Oakland is bullets.” Now there’s a bright arts district all around her restaurant. She says this is all thanks to her son, Alfonso.
A family man, entrepreneur, architect, artist, music festival organizer, and chef, Alfonso is the definition of a renaissance man.
As he puts it, after his parents were divorced and his mother gave her previous taqueria over to his dad, he couldn’t stand not seeing her with her own restaurant. Believing in her and putting his skills to work, he invested in his mom and together they opened Tamarindo.
Tamarindo, once just a small restaurant, opened up into a bigger space when the place next door shut down when the financial crisis began.
Serving up food from recipes that Gloria has collected from her travels all over Mexico and from partnering and working with other chefs, she’s been able to keep alive Mexican fare from ancient recipes to street food.
As an architect and artist, Alfonso brings a flair to his restaurants and bars.
Alfonso brings an aesthetic and understanding of structure, color, and design to everything he does. Sure you can have a taco in an amazing hole-in-the-wall, but why not have hole-in-the-wall level food, in a beautiful restaurant? Well, at Tamarindo, Alfonso made sure that you can.
The real secret of keeping the neighborhood awake and alive when everything was falling apart around them, was Alfonso’s resilience and Popuphood.
Credit: Eva Kolenko/ Vimeo
He helped found Popuphood, an agreement between the city, landlords and business owners to grant new businesses six months of rent-free space to open their doors and get foot traffic back up in the neighborhood. By doing so, Popuphood helped revitalize the whole area. It’s a pretty amazing story.
Outside of Popuphood, Alfonso is helping other entrepreneurs, by franchising his idea “El Taco Bike.”
He’s giving young taqueros the know-how, support, and a taqueria on wheels, for them to be their own boss and be successful.
Sure, most of us would cringe at the idea of having to work with our parents, but maybe, if you could resist that urge, you’d end up like Gloria and Alfonso.
Alfonso posted his mom’s photo to Instagram and captioned it “Felicidades mama! Proud of you…”
Good food, good vibes, good people. What else can you ask for?
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