HOW often have you wished, when looking for somewhere to dine, that there was a venue in PE which places the emphasis on a genuine Mexican food experience?
For many diners it may come as a surprise to learn that there is such a restaurant in the city, which has been going not so quietly about its business for the past two and a half years and which targets anyone from “the mature 25-year-old up to the immature 65-year-old”.
“That was our target market when the Chingadas concept was born over four years ago. Our customers are not someone looking for a fine dining experience, but someone who wants to go out, leave the kids at home with a babysitter and have a bit of fun,” says Josh Steenekamp, owner of Chingadas Mexican Cantina on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Main Road, Walmer.
“Not that we don’t cater for families,” he hastens to add. “We do.It’s just that we encourage families with children to make lunchtime or early evening bookings.”
That said, patrons are warned: “Our menu is traditional Mexican so don’t expect to be able to order pizza, pasta and hot dogs.”
Of course, the danger of this is that people who don’t like spicy food might give the restaurant a wide berth.
“They don’t have to,” Josh says. “Apart from slow-cooked dishes like chilli con carne, all our meals are prepared from scratch so if you don’t like chillies we leave them out.”
Indeed, flexibility is the name of the game at this venue with a difference. “We are not a pub or a club, nor are we a restaurant in the traditional sense of the word. Rather we are a destination where you can eat, jol, and dance on the table at midnight if that is what makes you happy. We want our guests to leave with a smile on their faces,” says Josh.
And if music is your thing, every second Thursday is “blackout night” at Chingadas, a concept which has its origins in a power cut and which now sees musicians, including Josh, jamming by candlelight in the cantina section of the 70-seater restaurant.
Surprisingly Josh, who was born in East London, is not a qualified chef, learning the skills needed to run a successful eatery via the internet and cookery books imported from Mexico.
After some trial and error testing on friends, Josh took the plunge and opened the first Chingadas at the Bloomingdale Lifestyle Village, moving to the newer, bigger venue (previously the Adega) at the end of last year, with word of mouth advertising seeing the venue pretty much full most nights.
Assisting Josh in the open- plan kitchen where diners can see their meals being prepared is a Spanish chef, Emilio (aka Cabron), who cooked his way around the world before ending up in PE.
Together, Josh and Emilio work on continuously finding ways to improve Chingadas where “the walls are like a canvas” waiting for more authentic finishing touches.
Plans for the future include building a deck outside and introducing a deli section where authentic Mexican ingredients can be bought.
Josh also plans to improve on the R36000 raised for Cansa in Movember last year as well as working on his SOS (Save Our Seals) campaign – but that’s a story for another day.