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John McDonald and Josh Capon want to take the theme park out of Mexican dining.
At their new restaurant, El Toro Blanco, which opens today, don’t expect to see a mariachi band, fluorescent stucco walls, pinatas or even large mounds of rice and refried beans served as side dishes.
Those conceptual clichés that typically plague Mexican restaurants are what McDonald, who co-owns the restaurant with Capon, means by “theme park.”
At El Toro Blanco, the star is the food, and the food is “fresh, well-priced, focused” and seafood-centric, according to Capon, who overseas the menu.
“We’re trying to give customers something more updated,” Capon says, referring to the emphasis on the ingredients rather than appetite fillers like chips and guacamole.
That’s somewhat of a departure from other moderately priced Mexican restaurants in the city, chimes in McDonald, who helped launch Dos Caminos.
“We didn’t want this place to feel like any of the other Mexican restaurants, and that’s not a criticism,” he says, looking around the 2,500-square-foot space in the West Village. “Visually, it shouldn’t look or feel like anything that you’ve seen for Mexican food.”
The restaurant, which is decorated with vintage Spanish posters, velvet matador paintings, tangerine-accented lamps and wooden chairs made in the Sixties, has a retro-vibe that might not be typically Mexican, but it’s certainly evocative of a laid-back fish shack that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
“We’re not trying to be haute cuisine,” McDonald notes. “The market has grown for serious dining but that doesn’t mean serious in the sense of being classical.”
The duo, who are behind B&B Winepub and Lure Fishbar, are well-versed in casual dining fit for foodies.
“I consider myself a very talented chef, but one thing that I pride myself on is that I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t take food too seriously,” Capon says. “You can go to Per Se and have the best meal of your life, but did you have a blast? No disrespect to what they do, because it’s very special, but it’s just not what we do.”
El Toro Blanco
257 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York