When Margarita Galindo Gallardo, the Mexican-born owner and head chef of Taco Quetzalcoatl, saw lines outside her Salisbury taqueria one day last year, she was concerned. “I thought, ‘Oh no, is there a fire in the kitchen?’” she recalls with a laugh. But the reality was far better. Visitors had flocked after New York Times food critic Besha Rodell labelled Taco Quetzalcoatl “one of the best representations of Mexican food in Australia”, and business hasn’t slowed down since.
Now, it’s time for a new challenge. With business partners Jaime Figueroa and Marco Camarillo, Gallardo has opened a larger second location in Unley (in the former Indochina Thai Restaurant site) called Quetzalcoatl Mexican Restaurant.
Her appreciation for the suburb was sparked last year when she was invited to run a food stall at an outdoor event for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). “Marco found this place,” says Gallardo. “When I saw it was near where I did the council event, I said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Gallardo wanted to introduce her cooking to more people. She’d also heard complaints from customers that they can’t get to the Salisbury location often enough. “People need Mexican food,” she told Broadsheet last month.
The menu at Unley is largely the same as at the original, featuring house-made salsas, traditional tacos (with handmade corn tortillas), burritos, empanadas, tamales, huaraches (fried masa-dough flatbread piled with toppings), quesadillas and enchiladas covered in a red, green or mole sauce.
The “Taco Rocco” (named after Camarillo’s baby son) is one of a handful of new additions: it’s a generous helping of asada (beef), capsicum, spices and vegetables with cheese and soft tortillas. There are also fried-chicken tacos, pozole (a traditional strew made with hominy and pulled pork), and, for dessert, tres leches (three milk) cake.
A liquor license is still on its way – expect Mexican beers, tequila and Pina Coladas alongside mocktails and horchata. Gallardo, who moved to Adelaide in 2007, misses her family in Mexico, and cooking is her way of staying connected to her homeland. “When I first started looking for Mexican food [in Australia], there was nowhere I could buy tortillas,” she says. “Here is great because you have lots of different cultures [and their food] … But you always miss home, you know?”
One of 10 children, Gallardo learned to cook by helping out at her mother’s restaurant. “My mother worked there for 30 years,” she says. “Us children were washing the dishes, or were waiters … I was chopping and frying.” She receives a delivery from Mexico about once every three months from her sister with ingredients she needs at the restaurant, such as dried chillies and spices, as well as decorative ponchos and Mexican art.
Gallardo, who’ll now divide her time between the Salisbury and Unley kitchens, wants to use the larger cantina-style space (which seats 100 people) to share as much Mexican culture as possible. When Broadsheet visits, popular Mexican singer Antonio Aguilar is playing over the speakers, and a large painting of the ancient Mayan city Chichen Itza (by Adelaide street artist mr. Senman) sits by the front counter.
Quetzalcoatl Mexican Restaurant
153 Unley Road, Unley
Mon to Sat 11am–11pm