Chef Raul Medina is on a mission to make vegan Mexican food as irresistible as possible, dethroning Impossible Foods and its ilk along the way. And he should have an easier time with that quest thanks to the upcoming debut of his first standalone restaurant of his pop-up La Venganza, set to debut in late summer 2023 at 6419 Telegraph Avenue, the former Cafe Colucci space. The street vendor worked at an immigration law firm before sliding into the food game and takes a more holistic view of veganism that includes factoring in working conditions for producers, in addition to the treatment of animals. Now he’s ready to make his statement louder than ever. “People say they eat cruelty-free,” Medina says. “Who do you think picks your fucking vegetables?”
Medina says in his new space he’ll roll out all the “meat” he’s been holding back on until now. Vegan menudo, vegan beef cheek, vegan tongue, beet chorizo — if he can get it to look like linked chorizo, that is — will all be on the menu. And he’s excited to show all the flavors and ingredients he feels Mexico barely gets shine for, such as one of his favorite unsung heroes, the tomatillo. Medina will use his two-day saturated vegan lard, a form of oil resin thickening on top, for pozoles and cabeza. He’ll continue his fatty, meatless food experimentation with king mushrooms and tapioca starch meant to reflect oxtail, to name just one dish on the menu. “I want cartilage,” Medina says. “I want skin. All the shit that makes meat good.”
This restaurant will be a takeout-only shop, as Medina says he’s noticed his customers working through their tacos offsite. Medina hopes the new location will become a go-to corner shop open roughly from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. He’s excited about the area as he says Oakland folks flock to this area of Telegraph Avenue for Smokehouse, an ideal go-to for late-night bites. And it’s beautiful to him to have the town’s oldest gay bar just down the street. Though Medina feels downtown Oakland used to be the attractive hub for diners, he says now people want to hit low-key, small places.
Medina has been on quite the journey to find this space. For about three years he’s travailed through Oakland from pop-up to pop-up. Most recently he served vegan food inside a corner store at 15th and Jefferson streets before switching to an installation at Emporium Arcade Bar. Now he’s excited at the chance to occupy the former Cafe Colucci space. “I see so much potential,” Medina says.
Taqueria La Venganza (6419 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) plans to open in late summer 2023.