It’s been 18 years since Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello opened a sweet little brunch spot called Cafe Lift in what was then dubbed the Loft District on 13th Street just below Spring Garden. They followed up with Prohibition Taproom just up the street, and the now-closed Bufad Pizza. They went to Fishtown with Kensington Quarters (and to Penn with KQ Burger), and took Cafe Lift briefly to the Main Line.
And, as I wrote last week, they’re heading to Haddonfield with a Cafe Lift.
But more immediately, they’re back in what is now called SpringArts with La Chinesca, which opened Friday in the old Jiffy Lube at 11th and Spring Garden Streets. (They’ve kept the Sean Gallagher mural treatment of the Biggie Smalls’ “It Was All a Dream” lyric on the 11th Street side.)
It’s inspired by La Chinesca, the Chinatown neighborhood of Mexicali, Mexico.
The menu from culinary director Nicholas Bazik and executive chef David Goody, who visited in February 2020, draws inspiration from both cuisines, such as the scallop and shrimp egg roll with aguachile.
Tacos are built on house-made, Baja-style flour tortillas made with grapeseed oil as opposed to lard (corn by request). Derek Gregory set up the beverages with local craft beers (as Love City, Triple Bottom, Roy Pitz, and Yards are neighbors) and a cocktail list in which mezcal and tequila predominate.
Rohe Creative worked up a snazzy neon-ringed garage front, an outdoor patio beneath retractable cloth shades out back. Inside, an intimate, dimly lit red basement lounge, if you want to have a cocktail.
Hours are : 4-10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, and noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
La Chinesca not only joins such neighbors as the Lucky Well, Kaiseki, Angry Deekin, and Union Transfer. It rounds out the Mexican American destination Juno as well as two solid Mexican-owned restaurants — El Purepecha (315 N. 12th St.), a bar-restaurant that started at 10th and Buttonwood Streets and moved into the Goldtex building in 2020. Its previous location is now the home of El Rincon, a tiny taqueria.