After the soft opening on August 8, Calexico is open for business, setting up shop on the historic Woodward Ave.
Calexico, named after the border town of California and Mexico, brings a unique dining experience to downtown Detroit featuring dishes like Baja-style fish tacos, burritos, elotes, and cocktails.
We had a moment to sit down with Randy Dickow, the owner of Calexico. You may also know him as the owner of Lunchtime Global, Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac N’ Cheez and the majority owner of Freshii.
Dickow has been a long-standing Detroit presence and is now proud to announce the newest eatery in the Motor City. Stick around for our exclusive interview with him, along with the hours, location, and menu of Calexico.
South of the Border
Before Calexico came to Detroit, it had an exclusive presence in New York City. Founded by David, Brian, and Jesse Vendley and Pete Oleyer, the East Coast restaurant started from a humble food cart in 2006 and continued to expand into multiple locations across the surrounding area.
Randy Dickow, the man behind the newest Detroit location recounts his story of bringing Calexico to the Motor City.
“I have a knack for what I think is lacking in the Central Business District in this area because most of my restaurants are in the CBD. I was really surprised that there wasn’t a cool spot that has great Mexican food in this area, with Mexican food being as popular as it is.
So I was doing a lot of research and I found the guys that were starting to grow Calexico in the Brooklyn and New York City Market.
It all started with these guys that wanted to start Calexico but didn’t have money to build a brick and mortar store, so they started out in a food truck and then they won what’s called the “Vendy” award, which is basically the Oscars for food trucks. That’s where they got all their press, and that’s how I found out about them. They won the Vendy award; they were on the Martha Stewart Show; they kept growing to multiple locations,” Dickow explains.
“I reached out to them. They didn’t know much about Detroit. I kind of stalked them for a little bit,” jokes the owner. “Then I eventually got all the Calexico owners on a call. We had a conference call and I basically said ‘Hey guys let me come out there for a day.’ I went out there and really hit it off with the guys: From a business perspective and a personal level. I liked their story: They started from the ground up. They started with nothing and built it to what it is today. I think they saw some of that in me as well, and they were comfortable.
They actually came out to Detroit and they were blown away; they couldn’t believe it. They had heard all the stories and then came here and were excited about what was going on here.
Bedrock got involved at that point and went out to New York and met with the guys. They went to a Calexico with them and fell in love with the food and ambiance of the restaurant.
This whole process started in October of 2014; that’s when I made the first phone call.”
I asked him how this East Coast restaurant fits in Detroit.
“What I like to tell people is that it’s Mexican food that’s been fused with fresh, bold flavors that you get in California style food. I think that we do that. We try to amp everything up: whether it’s the food, the cocktail program that we have along with the service and the ambiance that you see here.
We’re really trying to make this a flagship location, being the first in the market in the city of Detroit. And being in the Central Business District, there are certain expectations of a new restaurant. You better bring you’re A-game,” Randy laughs. “We worked really hard on the building to make sure it was a place that, not only is going to have great food and great service, but great ambiance and culture as well. We try to tie it in to have an urban-city feel but including the whole Calexico vibe as well.”
I asked Randy, for those who haven’t experienced Calexico yet, what the most popular item on the menu is:
“I would definitely go with the Baja Fish Taco. It is by far our best selling item for a reason. It’s just an awesome taco with mango salsa and bold flavor; it’s just a very different item.
My favorite drink on the menu is the Jalapeno Mint Margarita, which is one of those things where you’re just getting a little bit more out of a margarita than you get at most places. Not too spicy: you’re not getting too much jalapeno or too much mint. It’s just enough that sets it apart from other drinks. Whenever somebody asks me ‘what should I get to drink,’ I tell them: ‘the Jalapeno Mint Margarita.’ And most of the time they end up ordering another one. So that’s always a good sign!
Check It Out
You can stop by Calexico, located at 1040 Woodward Ave and open every Monday – Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. and Thursday – Sunday from 3:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.