Por SCOTT MIMS / Redactor
CALERA – Jessica Bargas, a Los Angeles native, couldn’t be happier to be in downtown Calera, Alabama. As the manager of the new Mexican restaurant Mama Coco Cantina, she came to love small town life.
Bargas, who worked for owner Julio Peralta at one of his other restaurants, jumped at the opportunity to come to Mama Coco when he found out about the opportunity.
“We wanted Calera only because we are a little more focused than Birmingham. This gives people the option to drive or not, ”Bargas said. “However, we love the country. We love it.”
Mama Coco Cantina opened on December 4, 2020 and was made official with the ribbon cutting on December 10. It is located on US 31 in the Family Dollar shopping center, near the historic center of Calera.
While the striking wall art is inspired by the Disney movie “Coco,” the name Mama Coco has nothing to do with the movie. It comes from a common nickname for Hispanic grandparents.
“They always call their grandmothers ‘mommy’, so that’s where the name comes from. In Hispanic culture, grandmothers live in the kitchen. Everything is made by hand, like tortillas or tamales or artisan bread, ”said Bargas. “We feel Hispanic, most of our family time is spent in the dining room and kitchen. That was our calling. We really try to bring that image to where our culture is, cooking in the kitchen and in the family. Food is very important. “
And visitors to Mama Coco will find an extensive menu, including the signature Burrito Grande – an oversized burrito filled with grilled chicken, grilled steak, shrimp, roasted bell pepper, roasted tomato, roasted onion, rice, and beans, lettuce and sour cream topped with green sauce, red sauce and cheese sauce. Tip: Don’t try to eat one yourself, it’s best to share.
Other highlights include the Durango steak, a tenderloin with steamed shrimp and vegetables, Mama’s Dip, which combines steak, chorizo, onion, whole beans, and cheese sauce; and Julio’s favorite, Mexican spaghetti.
For seafood lovers, there is the Mama Coco Fajita ceviche, which consists of crab meat, fish, shrimp, and pico de gallo.
“Mama’s Dip is one that a lot of regulars come to and (ask),” Bargas said. “Our margaritas too; we have many flavors. “
Despite the opening amid a pandemic, Bargas added that business is growing at the restaurant, which is already gaining regulars and increasing the potential of downtown Calera to become an entertainment district.
“We have been over and over again. It has been a blessing for all of us, for the kitchen, for Julio, for the waiters, for everyone, ”he said. “We had a tremendous and positive response on Facebook. They had so many phenomenal fans and responses about how good the food is. “
Owner Julio Peralta came to Mexico from the United States for the first time when he was 18 years old. He and his uncle, Miguel, operated several restaurants in North Alabama and in the Birmingham area.
“We heard from friends that it was a very good area to do business and Calera needed something like that,” Peralta said.
Building on Mama Coco’s success so far, she already has plans to expand the dining area and eventually add karaoke or a mariachi band for special days like Cinco de Mayo. He said that Mama Coco tries to offer a different experience to other Mexican restaurants through its authentic decorations and flavors.
Peralta said his favorite restaurant hours are Friday nights.
“I like when it’s full, when everyone talks, when everyone drinks, when everyone has fun,” he said.
Calera Main Street CEO Jackie Batson said he tried the Mexican spaghetti and it was delicious.
“I am delighted to have Mama Coco in our central district. They have been so consistent with their quality and service from day one that it is easy to visit them frequently. I hope to have even more restaurants and activities for all of us to enjoy downtown as we continue to revitalize historic Calera, ”he said.
Mama Coco Cantina is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday to Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday. It is located at 8176 US 31 and can be reached on Facebook or by phone at 205-690-8994.