Michelle Salazar de la Rocha and Sam Napier’s outstanding Mexican food stall Sonora Taqueria will evolve into a full-blown restaurant when it opens in Stoke Newington early in 2023.
In recent weeks, moreso than Salazar’s peerless flour tortillas and the closure of the Sonora stall at Netil Market in Hackney in September, the business has been better known for the much-publicised legal threat from Worldwide Taqueria, who — unsuccessfully — demanded that it remove the word “taqueria” from its name. Worldwide’s case was founded on its own trademarking of the word, which Sonora has maintained is a generic term, in 2005.
Now, with the public backing of 130,000 signatories in a Change.org petition and having publicly declared that it would not change its name, Salazar and Napier are turning their focus to the future — to their debut restaurant and the first permanent Sonora Taqueria.
“We’ve put a holding deposit down and agreed on terms for a bricks and mortar location on Stoke Newington High Street,” Napier told Eater. “The last couple months have made us really consider exactly what a taqueria is, and why it’s so important. More than ever, now, we want to stick closely to what we think defines a Sonoran taqueria — that’s fast, casual, affordable, and accessible.”
Guests will order from a taquero at the counter, where there’ll be the option of fresh jamaica, horchata, or michelada to drink; and to eat, carne asada tacos, chorizo quesadillas, queso fresco burritos, or a litre of barbacoa. “You won’t pay more than £5 for a taco, and you won’t eat it with a knife and fork.” Napier said.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve built a base that really loves what we do and supports everything we put out,” Salazar said. “Nevertheless, I’ve always personally felt like we have not reached our final form and there’s always things to improve, to be more consistent, to continue to experiment.”
The menu will be “greatly expanded,” with indoor seating enabling the team to introduce the likes of a Sonoran mixed grill, a full breakfast menu, some more “traditional plates,” as well as soups and tamales.
Though Sonora’s owners recently developed, consulted on, and opened Mexa for JKS Restaurants at Arcade, Napier was keen to stress that Sonora will remain “100 percent independent,” and that a crowdfunding campaign would be coming soon. “This will very much be a taqueria, offering exactly what we offered at the market but bigger, better, and more often.”
The new site will represent a step up for a brand which has been through three iterations and one pandemic in the less than three years it’s been in London. “We’ll be open more days of the week, and more hours of the day — we’ll have the capacity to take orders and serve food significantly faster than we have so far,” Napier said.
“Over the past few weeks, it’s felt more evident that there’s still so much to establish in terms of Mexican food in London,” Salazar said referring to the legal threat from Worldwide. “There’s still so much to correct, to show. I’m very critical of myself and I think that the real taqueria hasn’t happened yet. I really want to achieve that, and I’m very grateful to be in a position where I can try.”