Zocalo Café: On a Mission to Blend Fresh, Locally Grown Ingredients with the Flavors of Mexico City

When Zocalo Café opened its doors in 2007 in Austin’s Clarksville area, its mission was to blend fresh, locally grown ingredients with the flavors of Mexico City and create healthful, nutritious Interior Mexican dishes. These dishes, they pledged, would be an appealing alternative to the many Texas “Mexican” Food experiences found smothered beneath piles of greasy cheese and mountains of sour cream. Mission accomplished.

Owners Chris Courtney, Kelly Chappell, and Jay Bunda have enjoyed success with their other local restaurants. They also operate three locations of the Galaxy Cafe and not long ago purchased Austin landmark Top Notch Burgers. They chose the name Zocalo because it means “town square” or “meeting place” in Spanish, a perfect match for their commitment to both the local community and the cuisine of Mexico.

Dedication to Local Community and Sustainability

Zocalo Café is a sustainable and local-centric operation. You can see some of it in the building itself — the use of natural light, integrated shade structures and vegetation on the walls. The restaurant’s whitewashed minimalist interior is accented with bright green details and the work of local artists and photographers. And a focus on sustainability is apparent throughout the menu and in the kitchen’s abundant use of responsibly grown, local, fresh products. What many diners don’t see is Zocalo’s dedication to programs like a waste-oil recycling initiative that turns the kitchen’s spent grease into bio-fuel.

Zocalo’s Success Starts with Attention to Detail

Everything on the menu — even the tortillas, chips, salsas, and marinades — is crafted in-house each day with produce and natural meat from local ranchers and growers. The menu includes bright and lively items beginning with the appetizers and continuing all the way through the desserts. Zocalo serves ice-cold beer and a delicious range of refreshingly different wine-based drinks from the bar, too. Selections include Mango & Watermelon Bellini, “Horchata” Coladas, and their signature drink, the Zocarita, a refreshing mix of agave wine and lime juice.

Frequent breakfast and dinner patrons recommend the Chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican dish of tortilla chips tossed with salsa and served on a bed of black beans topped with tomatoes, cilantro, queso fresco and drizzled lightly with crema. At Zocalo, the kitchen adds organic eggs to their chilaquiles in the morning, and smoked chicken tochila quiles at dinner.

A popular choice on the lunch and dinner menuis Zocalo’s delicious tacos. The tacos are refreshingly fresh and light, and can be prepared with carnitas, fish, ground beef, ground turkey, beef or chicken fajitas, or vegetables on house-made, fresh tortillas. Another favorite is the white fish filet with chipotle slaw — a fish filet served on a crispy corn tortilla with grilled tomatoes, cabbage and carrot slaw finished with a chipotle cream sauce.

It’s All About the Brunch

Zocalo’s weekend brunch really brings out the foodies. Among the delicious options are the Jalapeño Biscuit Eggs Benedict — poached eggs served over sweet potato jalapeno biscuits with ham and tomato, topped with hollandaise sauce. Other popular Zocalo brunch dishes include huevos rancheros and huevos verdes, apple empanadas, and traditional churros — a lightly fried pastry, rolled in cinnamon and sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce and sweet cream.

The entire menu, from garden fresh salads and appetizers of campechana or ceviche to savory soups and delicious desserts of tres leches cake or flan, strives to support Zocalo’s commitment to freshness, flavor, festive presentation, and affordability. Once again, mission accomplished.