Radio Mexico Norte is pretty basic. The facade is colourful, but once you’re inside, the converted warehouse is little more than cinder-block partitions and an array of hardy greenery from Loose Leaf. But does the place still heave like its three-year-old counterpart in St Kilda? Absolutely.
“I feel like this opening has just been a breeze in comparison,” says owner Adele Arkell. When she launched the first restaurant, none of the staff could pronounce guajillo (a type of chilli), and few knew the difference between blanco and reposado tequila.
It’s easier now. With just 60 seats, the new space in Northcote is smaller than its south-side counterpart. It also benefits from several of St Kilda’s most experienced bar, floor and kitchen staff members.
Despite this head start, Arkell is sticking with a slimmed-down menu for the next three weeks, just to make sure everything runs smoothly. There’s still plenty of choice, from nine different sorts of soft-shelled tacos, to quesadillas and chilaquiles, plus smaller snacks such as corn on the cob and hand-cut chips with salsa. It’s all fresh, carefully made stuff.
Fans of St Kilda’s larger mains (pork belly, poblano chicken, slow-cooked mezcal beef) will have to wait until the end of November. The weekend-only breakfast service will start about a week later, in early December.
Though the two menus will be near-identical in the end, Arkell’s not cooling her heels. She’s just upgraded the all-important tortillas at both venues, moving from El Cielo’s standard nixtamalised white-corn pancake to an organic version. “They’re that little bit more expensive,” she says. “You don’t necessarily need to go that far, but I get a bit obsessed with the detail and the quality.”
For the same reason, the standard Radio Mexico margarita (two-for-one on Mondays) now uses Herradura Plata tequila in place of El Jimador. Both tequilas are part of an extensive line-up that also includes mezcal, wine and Mexican beers.
Radio Mexico Norte
2A Mitchell Street, Northcote
(03) 9481 5554
Tue to Fri 5pm‒11pm
Sat & Sun 4pm‒11pm
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