As the Bay Area is facing a wave of temporary shutdowns due to the omicron variant, it’s reassuring to know that some openings, the very least, are still on track. In June, Nosh first reported that La Guerrera’s Kitchen, a wildly popular restaurant and catering business that serves up dishes from the Guerrero region of Mexico, would close its Old Oakland space and reopen inside Swan’s Market, in the spot last occupied by Cosecha. According to co-owner Reyna Maldonado, diners should expect the new location to open in late January, with a plan to serve lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
The vibe surrounding the upcoming opening is, of course, alarmingly familiar. “We opened our Old Oakland location last year in December when it was the second shutdown,” Maldonado said of her business, which first launched in 2019 with support from the La Cocina incubator program. “It was a harsh celebration, as much as we wanted to be excited,” Maldonado said. “Now, we’re doing it again.”
Despite the omicron gloom, Maldonado and her mother/co-owner Ofelia Barajas have big plans for the new restaurant. They’ll be serving lunch and dinner Thursday to Saturday, as well as brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Chile relleno, a dish that takes over five hours to prepare, will no longer be an occasional daily special, and will instead move permanently to the dinner menu. More Guerrero-inspired meals that run in the Maldonado family will join the list. Their tamales, barbacoa and pozole, favorites among current customers, will remain.
“We’re still keeping it very traditional to the state of Guerrero,” Maldonado said, “but we’re going to do a lot more collaborations and events with local businesses and other La Cocina vendors, and we’ll be able to feature more dishes we grew up with.”
For brunch, chilaquiles — both a verde (green) option and a mole version — will be welcoming sleepy eaters, as well as a traditional Mexican breakfast dish named torrejas, a kind of a French toast with cinnamon. Cafe de olla, with cinnamon and piloncillo sugar, and a vegan coconut horchata, will appear on the drinks menu.
Speaking of drinks, Maldonado has a liquor, beer and wine license in the works, and she’s currently researching interesting Mexican and local pours. For the opening, a series of ticketed dinners with drink pairings is planned. “We’re still figuring out how it’s going to look like, with all the changes around COVID,” Maldonado said, “but we’re thinking if we do a dinner with the amount of people known ahead, it will be easier to celebrate that way.” The fact Swan’s has tons of fresh air, and a parklet, should make things a little less daunting — but not entirely hassle-free.
“This time, we’re in a market setting, so being mindful of our staff and other businesses is our priority,” Maldonado said. “We’re a family-owned business, and what’s hard for us is that if one of us gets sick, a lot of us can be affected by it. So we try our best to make sure we’re on top of all the regulations.”
Opening during the peak of the virus, once again, is hard, she emphasized. But, said Maldonado, “we survived the first shutdown, and we’re going to continue to keep trying our best.”