A giant thumbs-up with the words ‘Good Times’ painted beneath makes for a pretty friendly welcome to visitors dropping into El Chino, a new taqueria and bakery on St Georges Road. The unofficial motto encapsulates the atmosphere of the Mexican cafe, via which the crew are dishing up very casual and authentic foods that would be served in homes around Mexico.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the cafe currently serves a revolving menu inspired by different dishes from all over Mexico, although chef Alfonso Foncerrada says he takes cues from his hometown of Guadalajara.
The menu features hearty yet surprisingly light workman’s meals such as Chilaquile Rojos (scrambled eggs with salsa, corn chips and beans) and the Cochinita Pibil Taco (a slow-cooked pulled pork taco served on a traditional corn tortilla).
El Chino has kept the bakery outfit from the cafe’s previous owners and employed an in-house baker to make beautiful sourdough breads and pastries for customers to take home. Baker Matthew Harrod has been given full reign of the baking duties (on opening day the bread rack was piled high with fresh loaves, a buttery slab of croissant dough getting ready to roll on the kitchen counter).
“This place has been a bakery for over 30 years and the last owner wanted out of the business, so we spotted a neat opportunity to give the space some new life and put the bakery to good use," owner Bryce Ritchie
Ritchie’s experience as a designer and builder came in handy when he put together El Chino using found materials - turning upturned drawers into little side tables and broken down furniture into the coffee station out front. The concept is a familiar one for Ritchie, who worked on building Seven Seeds’ converted warehouse with Mark Dundon.
“About 90 per cent of El Chino is built with recycled found materials. We went scavenging around for hard rubbish for weeks and we found so much great material that’s gone into everything from the coffee counter to the furniture,” he says.
With a rear courtyard backing out to Fitzroy Primary School, El Chino is already attracting a steady morning following and the crew are planning to serve up some good times to a dinner crowd soon.
214 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North
(03) 9078 7974
Mon to Sun 7am–5:30pm