Mochilero Kitchen

Mochilero Kitchen will open on an undisclosed date this fall.

Mochilero Kitchen co-owners Jorge Cota and Justin Banauch hope to offer what they call a “trip throughout the country” when the restaurant opens in Peoria this fall.

The Mexican restaurant pairs traditional styles of food with a current, authentic twist.

Cota recalled driving for a month throughout Mexico, sampling different recipes and culinary techniques, something he had been dreaming about since finishing culinary school over a decade ago.

He and Banauch, also head chef, aim to tell that tale when the restaurant opens around September. The story is especially important to them, as the pair believe the flavors of Mexican food in the area do not mirror the experience they have had in other places.

“It’s a whole story about a trip through Mexico, learning all these different recipes and regions, and he spirit,” Cota said.

“I’ve always felt like the food here doesn’t fully represent what it could be. So I wanted to go down and get some of those recipes, take a trip and get some of that spirit, some of that love, and bring it back.”

The two, who met through LinkedIn and were impressed by the other’s credentials, are excited about the prospect of the opening of their location at 6791 W. Happy Valley Road. Cota has roots in the West Valley, while Banauch does not. However, Banauch wants Mochilero Kitchen to serve as a foundation for an expanding culinary culture in the area.

“Peoria is a growing community, and it doesn’t have the kind of thing we’re offering. It’s a blank canvas for us,” Banauch said.

“It’s very exciting to be able to get to an area that’s not as developed culinary-wise in that way, and then kind of put our imprint on it.”

Mochilero — meaning “backpacker” in Spanish, as a nod to the restaurant’s roots and story — is set to hold 87 seats indoors and another 28 on the patio when weather allows. The menu and exact opening date are still being determined, but the staff of the new establishment is anxious to get started on what is their first venture as owners.

“We want all guests to feel welcomed and at home,” Cota said. “It’s a true, Mexican hospitality kind of place and we can’t wait to open the doors.”

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