Taqueria Morelia, often known as Talk of the Town thanks to the bar next door, may have closed long ago, but nostalgic Oaklanders still mourn its famous burritos. Now, a new restaurant called La Frontera is bringing new life into the restaurant space.
La Frontera Mexican Restaurant is the first restaurant venture from Valentino Carrillo, also known as Valentino Presents, who was for 14 years the head promoter at the recently closed LGBTQ clubs Club BnB and Club 21 in Oakland. He's currently the promoter at The Port Bar and the White Horse, two other LGBTQ venues in Oakland. Carrillo was originally planning to promote events at the bar and nightclub next door, also named La Frontera, when he heard that the restaurant was available and decided to give restaurant ownership a shot. "I have aspirations myself of opening a nightclub in the near future, and ... this could be a good stepping stone to be able to eventually own the nightclub that I want," Carrillo said.
La Frontera's specialty item is the quesabirria, the very of-the-moment taco stuffed with tender beef birria and melted cheese inside a crisp orange shell. It's one of the few places in Oakland that serves quesabirrias every day. "We sell out like crazy almost every day," Carrillo said. Other menu items include street tacos (which go down to just $1 on Taco Tuesdays with an RSVP), burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and enchiladas as well as a seafood menu that includes items like aguachiles, camarones a la plancha, and camarones a la diabla. On weekends, you'll find brunch items like pozole, with plans to add chilaquiles and huevos rancheros soon. Pupusas, burgers, and chicken wings also are in the works. Next door at the bar, customers also can order margaritas, micheladas, and several flavors of mimosas.
Carrillo has a host of exciting events planned for the neighboring La Frontera nightclub. There'll be free dance lessons every other Tuesday from 7-8 p.m., featuring styles including bachata, salsa, and possibly even samba. Afterward, a DJ will take over, and there'll be free social dancing for all. Carrillo says that La Frontera has had a strong Latinx trans community for years, and his LGBTQ-focused events will be a natural fit for the venue. On Fridays, Carrillo hopes to host go-go dancers and drag shows. Every other Saturday, Carrillo plans to host a drag brunch called Tacos y Tacones (Tacos and High Heels), which also will feature 10 varieties of pour-your-own bottomless mimosas. Carrillo hopes that La Frontera will become a destination for the queer Latinx community.
"I'm gay ... so I want this to be a very gay-friendly venue for people to come out to, hang out, do LGBTQ fundraisers, stuff like that," Carrillo said. "There's very limited options for people, especially for the Latino community, because there's really no club for them to go to for events out there. ... It's basically a spot where you can all hang out, meet your friends — especially the friends you haven't seen in a while, because there's no clubs for you to go and hang out in."
La Frontera Mexican Restaurant is at 4481 International Blvd. in Oakland. For more info, follow @quericotacos on Instagram or check out LaFronteraOakland.com.