One of the enduring charms of Mi Zacatecas, apart from the restaurant’s destination-worthy handmade gorditas, is its out-of-the-way deep East Oakland location, along with the tininess of its tented side-patio dining area. The two-year-old restaurant also never got much foot traffic, though, and the kitchen was too small to give owner Cecilia Chairez room to expand the menu. But all that will change about a month from now when Mi Zacatecas relocates to a larger spot a few miles north at 6633 Bancroft Avenue.
The decision to move wasn’t initially prompted by happy news: Chairez says she started looking for a new location after her landlord nearly doubled her rent when her lease expired in June. The place she settled on sits within a couple blocks’ radius from Lena’s Soul Food and a handful of other restaurants. It’s a busier neighborhood with more foot traffic, so Chairez plans to expand her hours, adding breakfast service — fresh juices, atole, champurrado (the popular hot chocolate drink), chilaquiles, and a number of egg dishes. One of them, a simple scramble with red or green salsa, was a family breakfast staple back at home in Zacatecas. The dish will come with beans, queso fresco, and the restaurant’s huge handmade tortillas — “wow, it’s the bomb,” Chairez says.
The restaurant also plans to extend its hours later into the evening, turning the space into a cenaduría, or informal supper club, from 7 to 10 p.m. Chairez explains that the idea will be to offer a short menu of more casual snacks to nighttime customers: crunchy tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas. During the rest of the day, the restaurant will still serve its usual lineup of Zacatecan regional specialties, including the barbacoa and menudo Chairez makes on weekends and, of course, the griddled (not deep-fried) gorditas that are the restaurant’s biggest selling point.
At 800 square feet, the new location isn’t exactly huge, but it will be a significant expansion from the restaurant’s current tiny space, which functions as more of a takeout window than anything. When the new space opens, probably in January, the restaurant will have an indoor dining area for the first time — enough seats and tables to accommodate about 20 diners. The Bancroft Avenue space was never a restaurant, so it requires a full kitchen build-out. Chairez says the owner of the building is footing most of that bill, but the chef is fundraising to cover the rest of the expenses associated with the move. In the meantime, Mi Zacatecas remains open for business at its original location on MacArthur Boulevard.