Standout Salvadoran Pop-Up Popoca Will Rework Traditional Cars West Into a Cafe, Bar, and Retail Operation

Immediately after spending the past calendar year and a fifty percent embedded as a pop-up on the patio of a classic auto dealership in Uptown Oakland, Popoca, the considerably-acclaimed Salvadoran wooden-fireplace cooking expert, is finally receiving a room of its have. The greatest aspect? It doesn’t even have to move.

Chef Anthony Salguero tells Eater SF that the owner of Traditional Cars and trucks West required to get out of the cafe business and requested Salguero if he was fascinated in having about the sprawling 13,000 square-foot space. Salguero explained sure. And so, he and his husband or wife in the undertaking, Brandi Brown, who earlier was a co-owner of Filipino bar and cafe FOB Kitchen area, will change Popoca into a whole-fledged cafe and bar — a 1st for Salguero. But the two have ambitious designs even further than that. They want to transform the house into a retail hub that’ll contain a espresso shop, a evening market, and cluster of compact artisan shops — the form of place you can sit down for a plate of pupusas and a cocktail, but also snag a pastry, a house plant, or a T-shirt, and just dangle out on the patio.

Salguero and Brown are nonetheless finalizing the phrases of the lease with the landlord, but Salguero claims he’s confident the venture will go forward. A previously introduced partnership on the place, with the common specialty foods store Magnolia Mini Mart, did not get the job done out.

Pupusas crisping over the fire

For admirers of Salguero’s wood-fireplace tamales and pupusas, the largest news is that the pop-up, which suitable now generally operates on the out of doors patio — yielding the reduced-crucial “vibe of a neighborhood picnic,” as SF Chron foods critic Soleil Ho explained it in her evaluate — will morph into a whole-fledged cafe. Popoca will grow into and revamp Vintage Autos West’s bar and lounge areas, sooner or later providing 40 or 50 seats for indoor eating. And the cafe will now have both of those an indoor and out of doors kitchen area — ideally all interconnected jointly, Salguero states, with a far more considerable wooden-hearth cooking set up. Right now it’s just a easy grill laid on best of bricks, and though Salguero wants to continue to keep that rustic aesthetic, he also hopes to incorporate a modest out of doors oven and a rod for roasting birds.

As a pop-up, Popoca is best recognized for that emphasis on wood-fireplace cooking, as well as for the care Salguero will take in always grinding his possess masa new — and those people essential factors will even now be the staples for the complete-fledged restaurant. Salguero’s tamales and pupusas are different from the ones you could obtain at a standard pupuseria since of the way they benefit from the kiss of the flames: His tamales are the jiggly, custardy Salvadoran style, and simply because he takes advantage of burnt embers to nixtamalize the masa, and also finishes cooking the tamales in the hearth, they just take on a exceptional smoky taste. His handmade pupusas, griddled till crisp in excess of the hearth, are very easily the most well-known goods.

Chef Anthony Salguero grinding fresh masa using a small mill

Salguero grinds his masa new
Andria Lo

The emphasis, Salguero suggests, will be on cooking basic, traditional issues, but producing them as very good as he can maybe make them: “It’s amusing how good beans and rice can be.” The beans are triple-fried the rice gets cooked with rooster unwanted fat or pork fats, like the cooks he learned from throughout visits to El Salvador would do it.

The larger kitchen set up will also give the chef the opportunity to extend his repertoire and dig deeper into Salvadoran cooking. One of his new dishes will be punches alguashte, or crabs in a roasted pumpkin seed sauce — a dish usually produced with toddler crabs, nevertheless Salguero will almost certainly use entire Dungeness. It is a dish that is all about that deeply flavorful, earthy, lime-brightened sauce — delectable with a bowl of white rice, Salguero states.

Even with a significantly expanded Popoca, on the other hand, the Common Vehicles West room is a great deal much too significant for a single restaurant. That’s where the retail hub comes in, Brown points out. Within just the indoor room, they are planning to set up five or six “micro boutiques” that’ll be partitioned off from every single other. The notion would be for the place to function as a modest company incubator of kinds — a curated lineup of retail suppliers that would indication up for a 6-thirty day period or yr-prolonged residency. A few of the kiosks might feature laid-off chefs who have commenced new foods artisan enterprises as their “pandemic hustle,” but they wouldn’t mostly be foodstuff businesses. There might be a jewelry store or a plant stand or a vintage history retail outlet.

The indoor restaurant area would probably also run as a cafe during the working day — again, operated by some newcomer to the scene — that would attribute a range of baked merchandise, probably from some of the wonderful bakers who have started off Instagram-based mostly corporations through the pandemic. And the boutiques would in all probability remain open up till about 9 p.m., so in the evenings the area would have a very little little bit of a night market vibe.

“We the two occur from pretty grassroots projects ourselves, and nobody teaches you how to start off up a smaller enterprise,” Brown says. “It’s so daunting to get into lease negotiations and figure out how to do a business strategy, so we’re hoping to build a place where we can give other smaller corporations an chance to definitely jump off and succeed.”

Provided the bold scope of the venture, and the vagaries of permitting and development timelines even in the course of the best of (non-COVID) periods, it’s likely that Salguero and Brown’s entirely recognized vision for will not become a truth for numerous months. Optimistically, Brown says, they’re hoping to have the whole challenge up and working someday in the late summer season or early slide, although some of the retail distributors may possibly be prepared to debut in the late spring.

A Kickstarter campaign for the Popoca growth launches on January 11. In the meantime, Salguero suggests, Popoca will carry on to operate in its present pop-up sort for at least the following few months.

Correction, 8:33 a.m., January 14, 2020: An previously variation of this posting stated that the owner of Common Cars and trucks West is scheduling to depart the Bay Region he is, in point, only leaving the restaurant market and is looking for a new area for the motor vehicle dealership.