NYC’s Calexico to open in One Campus Martius

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Calexico, an award-winning Mexican restaurant chain born from a New York City taco cart, will open this summer in the 4,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by Olga’s Kitchen. It will be the first Calexico outside of NYC.

Partners Dave Vendley, left, 32, and Peter Oleyer, 39, both of Brooklyn, New York. “We love this town,” said Vendley. “We found a little bit of our selves in it as far as the concrete building of this town and our kind of blue collar grass roots as a company.”

Bedrock Real Estate, franchise owner Randy Dickow and representatives of Calexico released details of the new restaurant Tuesday at One Campus Martius.

After a complete overhaul of the look of the space by designer John Janviriya, Calexico will open in mid-summer with “California cuisine” including tacos, Mexican grilled corn, nachos, salads and a full bar. The restaurant will seat 130, and employ 70, including chef Derrick Rassam, previously of Mad Hatter Bistro & Tea Room in Birmingham.

The New York City-based restaurant will serve California-Mexican cuisine.

Rassam will develop a food and beverage menu that will be unique to the Detroit location. Diners can look forward to late night service and brunch, too.

“We started as a street cart, and we didn’t have enough money to open a restaurant, we just retrofitted a hot dog cart and started selling food,” said Dave Vendley, who founded Calexico in 2006 with his two brothers Jesse and Brian Vendley. “We were lucky enough to win some awards and that gave us an opportunity to open a restaurant.”

Some of those awards include Zagat’s 2011 No. 1 Rated Mexican restaurant in New York City. Caleixco, which is named after the city bordering California and Mexico, was most recently given the Vendy’s Master Cup, a prize awarded to NYC’s top street food vendor of the decade.

The Detroit Calexico joins their four restaurants and three food carts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was brought to Detroit by restaurateur Dickow, who owns Freshii and Lunchtime Global in downtown Detroit and Sweet Lorraine’s Mac n’ Cheez in the Renaissance Center.

A Pollo Asado Burrito.

“I came across so much positive press on Calexico, and the more I read about them I just thought to myself this would be awesome in downtown Detroit,” said Dickow. “Part of their development plan was they only wanted to go into major markets and they were up front and honest with me saying ‘we don’t know much about Detroit.’ I not only told them what was going on in Detroit today, but I told them where Detroit was going.”

“We love this town,” said Vendley, who was in Detroit Tuesday for the announcement with his executive chef Peter Oleyer. “We found a little bit of our selves in it as far as the concrete building of this town and our kind of blue collar grass roots as a company.”