Manly isn’t known for its hidden gems. Everything is pretty much front and centre at this beachside locale. So the birth of Chica Bonita at the back of a little arcade and spilling onto the laneway and car park behind it is one for the books. With a roller door opening to a tiny wooden deck, it shares the strip with Infinity Sourdough, so it’s in good company.
This Mexican taco joint and dive bar began its fiesta just about two months ago, settling right in to its beachside location. Multi-coloured Mexican tiles cover the bar and tables; rainbow-striped cushions lean against the raw brick walls; and Dia de los Muertos dolls dot the décor, most of which is direct from Mexico. And if skulls aren’t your thing, it’s worth toughening up for the food.
Lunch offers $13 burritos from 11am to 3pm and the ‘cochinita pibil’ (slow roasted shredded pork) makes for a hefty foil-wrapped roll the size of your forearm (so bring your appetite). Orders of guacamole arrive with smoky chips in brown paper bags. Dinner offers a slightly different combination of dishes, but they’re all along the taco/tortilla line and both menus are tight and designed to be knocked back with a Mexicali beer, shot of tequila or $8 margarita. It’s all delivered with the option of three hot sauces, which vary in intensity, so make sure you take note of which one is the hot hot sauce.
Mates Sean and Luke Miller (not related) are Manly locals with a passion for Mexican food and they wanted to create the sort of place that they’d want to hang out in themselves. And according to Sean, whilst things have already been busy for the new spot, they’re still planning additions like a cactus garden in the arcade.
Head chef Alex Wong (previously China Beach) is tossing the pans for the pretty lady (yep, that’s what the name means) and you’ll spot him in the kitchen with his distinctive baseball cap on, working hard beneath the brightly lit, red neon TACO sign.
If you’re on the hunt for this hidden spot, watch for the bicycles leaning against the wall opposite the florist…because beachside Mexican will be hot for summer.