It’s time for my first faceoff. I was assigned to profile new Mexican spot Calaveras for the Block Island Times this week. I’m a big fan of Mexican food, so I was eager to check the place out. I recently profiled Mex on the Deck: Las Gataotos and in a head to head comparison, if you are craving the southern neighbor cuisine, the top taco of the island goes to Calaveras. It rates ahead due to its intimate appeal, catering to the customer menu and attention to freshness. And big PLUS for BYOB and fried ice cream for dessert (this place is so great they even have clever puns).
“I hate tacos” said no Juan ever.
Owner Julio Mendoza was a pleasure to talk to and I wish him a summer of long lines and no sombreros. A few months ago he wasn’t even thinking about opening a restaurant, but when life lends opportunities make he makes guacamole! 9/10
Here read my article for the paper because wait for its publication might mean this unknown gem will be secret no longer.
Located at 30 Water Street, next to the Block Island Post Office, Calaveras brings genuine Mexican food to the island. Taking out the space once held by Terrapin Taco its first season of business, Calaveras has taken off with a pure ambition. Serving up take-out or sit down meals to customers the restaurant caters to the exact desires of its patrons with a build your own type menu that is supported with owner Julio Mendoza’s specialty plates. In getting the chance to sit down with Mendoza the commitment to his business is seen and the true ecstasy of the spot is radiated.
Mendoza is originally from Mexico City, and lived in Connecticut and New York previously before his island living. He came to the Block Island 5 years ago to do landscaping work. In the midst of his summer work, Mendoza met his wife, IIiana. Like the island does to many, it called them back the following year and the couple has lived on the island since. This April when the space became available, Julio took the opportunity to pursue the chance to provide his home’s flavors to the island.
“I want to remain authentic, but not stereotypical” says Julio in describing the environment and food he wants to provide in his establishment. Julio does just this with a combination of colors, murals and flags that adorn the space. It provokes association with Mexican traditions instead of the skewed American perception of piñatas and sombreros that can often over shadow. The design of the welcoming interior and view-encompassing exterior was the work of Julio and his wife.
Named Calaveras, meaning “sugar skulls”, for Julio’s favorite holiday, the Day of the Dead, the ties toMexico are important to not only the production of the food at Calaveras, but also the origins of the menu’s inspiration. In addition to the build your own section of the menu, specialty dishes are also available. Including the popular, Tostada de Tinga, a flat corn shell topped with beans, lettuces, pulled chicken, sour cream and Fresco Cheese, a recipe passed down from Mendoza’s mother.
Of the variety of options to try, all are made with fresh ingredients. In speaking about how he does his foods preparations Mendoza remarks, “I only ask the tomato to taste like a really great tomato, nothing else.”
With all menu items being prepared from scratch, this simplistic approach creates flavorful authentic food. Everyday the small team at Calaveras crafts foods made to order on a small scale but with serious results. In addition to its main order plates, the kitchen also makes sides of hot from the oven tortilla chips with freshly diced salsa and guacamole. To wash down your delicious dinings there are daily “Augas Frecas” that rotate including Horchata and tangy teas. Don’t forget to leave room for dessert with delectable dishes of fried ice cream and Cheesecake chimichangas.
On Saturdays and Sundays, they are open for breakfast serving up egg plates and breakfast burritos. Grab and go or sit back and enjoy your with Calaveras’ homemade coffee (which is also served daily).
Diners can have exactly the experience they desire at Calaveras. BYOB allows customers to bring accompanying beverages. The menu is made to order with the kitchen happy to prepare orders under exact specifications. Service can be tableside or at the counter. Indoor and outdoor seating adds to the list of the far from stressful choices for visitors to make.
Julio Medoza looks to bring his once home to his new with his new restaurant. Stop by to see what is quickly becoming an island favorite. The Calaveras accepts credit cards and is open from 11am until 5pm Mondays, 11am to 9pm on Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11am-10pm Fridays, 8am-10pm Saturdays, and 8am-9pm Sundays. Check out the Calaveras Facebook page for daily specials and new menu additions!