Cholita Linda Sets Up Permanent Home
Once-migrant pop-up banks it all on tacos.
Pulled-pork sandwiches and tacos are staples at Cholita Linda.
There are few places in Oakland that make you feel as though you’ve journeyed to a tropical beach town where the sun is shining on your shoulders and your cares are miles behind. But such is the way with the Latin American mercado-inspired Cholita Linda, a taco haven nestled in the Temescal district near 51st Street. The 70-plus-seat restaurant boasts soaring walls hung with neon-lime window panels, a mélange of palm trees, and enough natural light to transport patrons to what the owners warmly describe their new brick-and-mortar location to be: a getaway.
What began five years ago as a dream for husband-and-wife owners Murat Sozeri and Vanessa Chavez has grown into a full-time business, and the passion behind it is quite simply a devotion to delicious food. Says Chavez, "[Sozeri] was an investment banker before. And he left it all behind for tacos."
The pair began selling their fare at a single farmers market in Jack London Square, and the response was so strong that they’ve since expanded into three markets in addition to San Francisco’s weekly Off-the-Grid event. Sozeri and Chavez, who always planned to use the markets as a stepping-stone to a permanent location, credit their patrons as the force behind their continued success.
"Our customers over these five years have turned into family," says Chavez. "We wanted to create a space in dedication to everybody who pushed us along the way and told us to do it and to go for it."
Today you will undoubtedly be in the company of regulars as you indulge in a house-made mango-passion fruit agua fresca, crispy fried fish taco, or a Cubano pulled-pork sandwich. Chavez, an Oakland native with a Peruvian, Mexican, and Cuban background, draws inspiration for the menu from her childhood as well as from her travels in Latin and Central America. "[When abroad] I spent my time eating and loving these basic, simple comfort food plates," she says, "and the women who would be cooking there always had the most warm and inviting little stalls with plastic colanders and different knickknacks. Nothing really matched but somehow it was very charming."
Whether you opt for the back patio or a spot at a communal table, you may forget you are still in your neighborhood and not lounging the day away in a coastal cabana. While technically still in a soft-opening stage (Chavez was nine months pregnant during our interview and unsure of the official opening date), the restaurant is offering tacos, salads, full plates, sandwiches, and a respite from the real world Tuesday through Saturday. Stop by for an authentic meal and a mini vacation all at the same time.
Cholita Linda, 4923 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, www.CholitaLinda.com