When New Jerseyans (together with myself) have been on the hunt for the very best birria tacos, it appeared like an unsuspecting storefront in Union Metropolis had amassed a cult-like following. Actually, the proprietor of Chofi Taco, Kim Flammia, not too long ago instructed me that prospects have pushed in from out-of-state to attempt her meals. This didn’t shock me.
Earlier than opening her brick-and-mortar, Kim and her husband Patrick had developed an unimaginable fan base as distributors at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. Hoping to duplicate that success, the 2 restaurant business veterans got here up with a marketing strategy, pooled their financial savings and opened Chofi in March 2020. Two days later, New Jersey entered lockdown.
At its core, Chofi stays a household enterprise. Kim is the chef and artistic thoughts behind the enterprise whereas her husband, Patrick, handles all issues front-of-house. Chofi itself is a nickname for the couple’s daughter, Sofia, and the menu hinges on hand-pressed nixtamal tortillas and regional dishes from Tijuana and Kim’s dwelling in Puebla. A lot of Chofi’s recipes have been handed down by her grandmother.
Whereas Kim is admittedly conscious of the misconceptions that People have with regards to conventional Mexican delicacies, this doesn’t cease her from sharing her love for genuine avenue meals and paying homage to Mexico each time she will. There aren’t many different locations on the town the place you will discover banderitas or esquites with bone marrow. The whole lot from the brightly-colored plates to the printed tablecloths brings again reminiscences for these wanting a style of someplace they need they may very well be.
I had the pleasure of talking with Kim who shared what Chofi’s journey has been like, what she thinks concerning the birria taco craze and the one dish she needs you to attempt.
Chofi was born from you and your husband, Patrick, cooking birria collectively at dwelling. Was that one thing you two all the time loved doing?
Now we have each labored in eating places since we have been youngsters—from Lengthy Island to Mexico to NYC. Meals and hospitality are one thing we each love. At dwelling, we’re all the time cooking collectively. I’ve all the time cherished displaying him the genuine delicacies of Mexico and he has a blast each time we go to my household in Puebla. That’s type of why I ended up making birria at dwelling in the future and he cherished it!
Your first introduction to the world was at Smorgsburg in Brooklyn in 2019. How did that chance come about?
Patrick was working at Jean-Georges and I had simply left my job at The Mark by Jean Georges to deal with our child. It had already been a dream of ours to open our personal restaurant, and Patrick determined to use to Smorgasburg as a result of that appeared like an excellent first step. He was proper! We went by the appliance course of, met with Rob and Eric from Smorgasburg, pitched our product, and we have been in.
Contemplating all of the success you guys had there, was organising a storefront in Union Metropolis the pure subsequent step?
As I beforehand talked about, our purpose was all the time to open a restaurant. We had an excellent product, we simply wanted a following (and a few cash). Smorgasburg was nice in getting us the next and we have been capable of save up nearly sufficient for the shop.
When Chofi lastly did open in March of 2020, you have been compelled to shut two days later due to the pandemic. Did you discover it more durable or simpler as a family-run enterprise to determine a brand new plan of action?
After we opened, it was simply Patrick and I on the restaurant working on daily basis. We did the whole lot from making the meals, taking orders, prep, dishes, and so on. The pandemic made folks slightly extra understanding and empathetic to our state of affairs, so I believe it gave us time to actually determine run this new enterprise. We ultimately began getting busy sufficient that we needed to rent employees, and the those that got here to attempt the meals, at first, stayed loyal and nonetheless have!
Not too lengthy after, the birria taco craze swept the nation. I think about that needed to really feel like a blessing contemplating what Chofi makes a speciality of. Or was the eye overwhelming?
Shortly after, folks have been coming to the restaurant with all types of concepts of what birria was due to issues they’d seen on-line. It was overwhelming to satisfy some folks’s expectations as a result of some got here for that hype however didn’t actually know what they have been getting. It helped lots, we had folks touring from Pennsylvania to come back to Chofi!
I noticed you lately mentioned in an Instagram submit that “there may be extra to Chofi than simply birria.” Whereas this dish is the one which seemingly put you on the map, does any a part of you would like that the hype would die down?
No! I’m completely happy that persons are open to attempting new issues and we love that folks come for one thing we try to be the very best at. With all of the hype, it feels nice when some folks inform us that Chofi is the very best they’ve had.
We do, nonetheless, need folks to know we’re greater than simply birria. We’re an homage to Mexico and I try to make meals the best way I bear in mind having it again dwelling in Mexico. I would like everybody who walks in to get an actual style of Mexico, whether or not they have been there or not.
I additionally learn that you just have been taught to cook dinner by your grandmother. I ponder how these recipes have knowledgeable your dishes at Chofi?
The whole lot I make at Chofi is by some means impressed by my grandmother, Ofelia. I nonetheless name her to ask her for ideas and recipes! A few of my favourite reminiscences rising up have been visiting my grandparents and having her meals. And my grandmother’s meals tastes like all of the grandmother’s in Mexico! So I actually find it irresistible when folks come to Chofi and get a style of dwelling since I do know numerous Mexicans who reside right here haven’t had the possibility to go to their households in a very long time.
What would you like folks to study your heritage once they eat at Chofi? What dishes, apart from the birria tacos, do you recommend folks attempt?
I grew up in Washington Heights till I used to be 15 after which moved to Puebla. My dad is Cuban, my mother is Mexican. Chofi is the whole lot I missed from Mexico after I was in NYC. I would like people who find themselves Mexican to lastly have meals the best way they bear in mind it again dwelling, and I would like individuals who aren’t Mexican to get a style of one thing genuine and be taught that actual Mexican avenue meals doesn’t imply burritos, nachos, and fajitas.
My favourite dish at Chofi is our quesadilla as a result of it’s the method each “memela stand” makes them in Puebla. A giant blue tortilla with poblano peppers and mushrooms, epazote, and chicharron. It’s a deal with! And naturally, our carne asada taco has been a success from the beginning.
You possibly can sustain with Chofi by their web site or by following them on Instagram.