Cory Armenta has taken over executive chef duties of the Castro's high-end Mexican restaurant, HECHO. Keeping it in the family, Armenta also oversees the menu at HECHO's sister restaurant and gay sports bar, Hi Tops, owned by partners Dana Gleim and Jesse Woodward. Previously, the chef cooked his way through Terzo, Roses Café, Rose Pistola and eventually the San Francisco catering company Fork and Spoon Productions (from Wolfgang Puck alums Jennifer Spiegel and Jonathan Beil).
Armenta cites his Mexican-American and California upbringing as the inspiration for his cooking, starting with the classics— there'll still be fajitas, but they will offer fresh, flavorful options like fresh corn, Swiss chard and toybox squash. "Basically, there weren't vegetables on the old menu," says Armenta. "That's a crime in San Francisco, especially when so many of our guests are vegetarians or vegans." And since taking over the kitchen a couple weeks ago, the chef has added a plethora of Mexican dishes that highlight seasonal California produce, like a roasted vegetable quesadilla with asparagus, chard, caramelized onions and pepita-cilantro pesto, alongside a crowd-pleasing selection of six nightly tacos and four quesadillas. "We're really elevating the menu at HECHO," explained Armenta. "I'm trying to steer away from Tex-Mex options and focusing on authentic Mexican flavors." Weekend brunch offerings are also getting a boost via a much larger menu and the addition of dishes like the HECHO hash, composed of roasted potatoes, peppers and onions covered in queso fundido, and a brunch torta, with carnitas or sweet and spicy bacon.
Though the restaurant experienced a kerfuffle over its first name, Bandidos, a few months ago, it seems to have gotten back on track under its new moniker, HECHO. And undoubtedly Armenta will bring his own personal, authentic flavors to the new menu, with a new summer version launching next week.