By Belle Crawford | Photos by Jennifer Cole
En La Calle, which translates to “in the street,” began with a desire to offer Asheville, in a bar setting, the vibrant culture and traditional foods found in the streets of Mexico City. “En La Calle is designed to be less of a ‘fine dining experience’ and more of an ‘eat, drink and be merry’ sort of trip,” says En La Calle manager Joaquin Gomez. “We’re a kinetic place, a lively place. And although we hone in on crafting the best cocktails we can and cooking up the tastiest dishes we can muster, it’s the atmosphere that takes center stage.”
En La Calle houses a 22-seat bar with a white, concrete top, overhung with orange and fuchsia candle-lit globes. “When we bring the lights down, which we do gradually as the night goes on,” says Gomez, “it lends a nice, intimate warmth to the room.” The walls of En La Calle are decorated with murals reminiscent of street art. “Pretense is our enemy,” Gomez says, “and it’s the personality of the staff that brings our bar to life. We’re an enthusiastic crew.”
En La Calle owners Hugo Ramirez and Amy Cavanaugh opened the bar next door to Limones, their restaurant featuring Mexican and Californian cuisine established in 2004. The inspiration for the bar came from Ramirez’s trips to his hometown in Mexico City. “Hugo and Amy wanted a bar that featured the flavors that characterize Mexican culture,” says Gomez, “both on the street and in the home. Street food and/or peasant food, to use another terminology, is what Latin cuisine is about. Good, simple flavors, using simple ingredients, executed well; it’s what the majority of the En La Calle staff grew up on.”
Some of the most popular menu items include grilled street corn (known in Mexico as ‘elote’) with cotija cheese, lime, chile negro crema, and the Tlacoyo Campechano, an oval-shaped corn masa tortilla filled with beans and topped with brisket barbacoa adobo pork, Chihuahua cheese, crema, pickled onion and salsa verde.
A few of En La Calle’s more popular signature cocktails include Margarita Caliente: silver tequila, triple sec, fresh limejuice and a habanero and berry mix; Mil Noches (“a thousand nights”) made from jalapeno-infused tequila, muddled cilantro and cucumbers; and El Ladron (“the thief”), a light, delicate cocktail featuring mezcal, pear, cardamom, vanilla, ginger and grapefruit bitters that Gomez says has cultivated “quite the following.”
When asked about exciting ideas in the pipeline for En La Calle, Gomez mentions developing a custom beer. “We would love to partner with one of the micro-brews in town and develop our own signature brew,” he says.
In the meantime, “If you like tequila,” says Gomez, “if you like mescal and great, simple food with inventive cocktails and a place that’s lively, exuberant and affordable, we’re the bar for you. If there’s such a thing as casual, cool dining, we’re it.”
En La Calle is located at 15 Eagle Street in downtown Asheville. For more information, visit enlacalleasheville.com or call 828. 232.7012.