After 28 years in tacos, restaurateur Hayward takes the step of gastronomy

Inside Casa Del Toro, the new upscale Latin American restaurant in Hayward, the shelves are stocked with high-end tequilas, by far the biggest choice in town. A classically trained Oaxacan chef makes ceviche and halibut paella. And discerning diners indulge in $ 56 dry-aged rib eye.

This is not what you would expect from a restaurateur who “made a living entirely on rice, beans and tacos”.

But Alejandro Gamarra, a resident and restaurateur of Hayward for 28 years, is determined to make his beloved city a foodie destination and be the catalyst for other players in the industry to join him. He’s seen his potential since he dropped out of college in 1993 to start a taco truck, Tacos Acapulco, on the corner of West A Street and Royal Avenue.

“I was 22 and had three children,” says Gamarra, now the father of six. “It was my entry into the (restaurant) sector. “

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: View of the bar at the new Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)

Those humble beginnings paved the way for Gamarra’s restaurant group, Acapulco Taqueria, named after the first brick and mortar it opened at 310 W. A St. when its taco truck lease expired in 2004.

This taqueria was only half a mile from where he parked the truck, but nowadays it’s called Metro Taquero, a quick and laid-back place known for their simple street tacos and burritos. breathtaking, like a haystack stuffed with fries.

Today, the catering group includes two Taqueros Metro in Hayward and one in San Leandro. It opened the third in May 2020 – during the pandemic.

“I did my best to open this place in 2020 and it was a blessing,” Gamarra said. “It allowed everyone to work. “

Like pizza, tacos and burritos are pandemic proof. Its restaurants not only stayed open, they kept the 130 employees on the payroll. And a fourth Metro Taqueros is slated to open at Skywest Commons Mall in Hayward in January.

He remembers something Jerry Brown said when he was mayor of Oakland: “More people eat beans than caviar. And it stuck with me forever. It has been relevant to my life.

The Gamarra restaurant group also includes Mexican, a full-service bar and restaurant that opened in 2007, and yes, it named it after the 2001 film. “Some think it’s cheesy or even derogatory, but it’s not the case, ”he said. “We had looked at 100 names and at the end I said, ‘Let’s name it the Brad Pitt movie.’ And it worked. This is the classic Mexican restaurant.

But the 140 places Casa Del Toro, which took over the old Playt location at 1034 B St., is Gamarra’s first restaurant to venture beyond traditional Mexican cuisine. It offers a range of seasonal Latin American flavors, from paella to steaks from Gamarra’s native Argentina.

“We’re trying to bring something unique to Hayward, another standard,” says Gamarra. “This city gave me the opportunity to have a good life. It’s a natural progression for me to do this.

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Owner Alejandro Gamarra is pictured at the Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)

Hayward’s rapidly changing demographics and rising real estate development – he cites Lincoln Landing, a five-story, 445-unit residential building in North Hayward expected to be full by 2022 – is expected to spur a burgeoning food scene in the center. “Town,” said Gamarra.

“Hayward has had a bad rap over the years, but I think we’ve got a downtown that’s ready to explode,” he says. “And I think people who are used to traveling to Paradiso in San Leandro or one of the restaurants in downtown Oakland would like a place near their home.”

To give them that, Gamarra has assembled a stellar team. He brought in executive chef Serafin Cruz from Lake Chalet in Oakland to produce the kind of hip yet refined tapas – think truffle fries, roasted bone marrow, crispy Aleppo Brussels sprouts – that were missing in the city center. And he chose mixologist and Hayward native Sam Jimenez, formerly of Emeryville’s Prizefighter and Oakland’s Chop Bar, to lead the beverage program.

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Mixologist Sam Jimenez prepares cocktails at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)

The bar program offers a strong selection centered on the agave that you don’t see in these regions: 38 types of mezcal, 46 tequilas, plus sotol, a Mexican whiskey and a rare agave alcohol from Peru. The wine list focuses on Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and Spain, but expect Livermore, Lodi, and Paso Robles wines as well.

On the dinner menu, look for protein-based entrees, like wine-braised baby back ribs with cilantro mashed potatoes ($ 27) and mezcal-glazed king salmon with purple mashed potatoes ($ 27) $ 28). No wonder the tacos (you get two per order) are eye-catching: the rib eye steak is drizzled with Peruvian Rocoto sauce ($ 18) and the spicy rock cod gets the mango salsa and chipotle cream. Look for similar gourmet tacos to also display on the Mexican’s menu, closer to spring.

“We want to reduce this menu and train our cooks to be a little more elegant in the dish,” says Gamarra.

Details: La Casa del Toro is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at 1034 B St. in Hayward. Book at https://casadeltororestaurant.com. The Mexican is open for lunch and dinner daily for meals, take out and deliveries at 19950 Hesperian Blvd. to Hayward; www.themexicanhayward.com. Find details on Metro Taquero’s next four locations at www.metrotaquero.com.

HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: The Braised King Salmon Dish at Casa del Toro is served with purple mashed potatoes, grated Brussels sprouts and a chipotle butter sauce. (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Chef Serafin Cruz prepares food at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: The braised short rib dish is served at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: A view of the dining room is seen at the Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: The Maracuya Mezcal Cocktail is served at Casa del Toro Restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: A view of the dining room is seen at the Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: The Paella del Toro dish is served at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021. It is also served with rice. (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: The patio is seen at the Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Niman Ranch Skirt Steak is served with Chimichurri sauces and Casa del Toro is served at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Group news from the Tyska / Bay region)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: A view of the bar is seen at the Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Cocktails Batida, right, and Sangria are served at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group )
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Chef Serafin Cruz cuts meat at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)
HAYWARD, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 15: Chef Serafin Cruz prepares the Cevice Trio dish at Casa del Toro restaurant on B Street in downtown Hayward, Calif. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021 (Jane Tyska / Bay Area News Group)


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