Xperience Restaurant Group — the 73-restaurant parent company of Chevy’s Fresh Mex, El Torito, Sol Mexican Cocina, El Torito, and more — opened its new concept, Cal Mex Cantina, in October. Cal Mex Cantina is an elevated gastropub with a fusion of Mexican and Californian flair located at Fisherman's Wharf in Redondo Beach in Southern California.
The restaurant is the latest addition to Xperience Restaurant Group’s extensive portfolio of mainly Mexican and Mexican-American restaurant brands, offering a little bit more of an energetic, adult “Mextropub” atmosphere that stands out from its other restaurants with a menu of small plates that combine familiar American formats (like wings, fries and grilled cheese) with Mexican flavors and ingredients.
“In coming up with the concept, we wanted to be different,” Randy Sharpe, CEO of Xperience Restaurant Group, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “When we had an opportunity to take over this smaller space on Redondo Beach Pier through our existing landlord with El Torrito…I challenged the team to really dig deep. We reimagined the typical cantina bar environment with a gastropub menu of smaller plates and a little more elevated cuisine.”
Sharpe’s goal with creating the menu for Cal Mex Cantina was to come up with offerings that are unique and unexpected. For example, everyone expects to find guacamole on a Mexican appetizers menu, but you might not expect to find avocado hummus or beat and goat cheese salad instead of a taco salad. Other creative fusion menu items include the birria grilled cheese and the octopus taco.
Sharpe also said that the gastropub, given its classification, is more bar-forward than some of the company’s other concepts. with an extensive curated cocktail list offering elevated tequila-based cocktails, as well as some creative takes on drinks made with other liquors, including an alcoholic rootbeer float made with rumchata.
“Cal Mex is in a smaller box, which is exciting to work with, as we typically operate in large footprints,” he added. “It’s really a cantina that bring some of the best quality food on an elevated scale that you would find out throughout the coast of Baja all the way to Southern California.”
Cal Mex Cantina is housed inside a 3,600-square-foot space with an “airy design” inspired by the cliffs and beaches of coastal Mexico, warm lighting, and an outdoor patio that is shared with its neighboring sister restaurant, El Torito.
For now, Xperience Restaurant Group is just focusing on the singular location of Cal Mex before deciding if it can be scaled, though Sharpe said it would be a “tremendous opportunity” to open more locations throughout Southern California. Currently, XRG is going through a “bit of a growth spurt” he added, stating that the company just opened up nine locations in 2023 with more coming to new markets—including Boston—in 2024.