Joel Ibarra, whose family own several Mexican restaurants in the area (as well as the Mexican-Southern fusion concept Jose and Sons in downtown Raleigh) has teamed up with longtime friend and Mexico City native Miguel Araiza in a venture they’ve been talking about for years. Called Totopos, the restaurant features the street food of Mexico City. According to Araiza, it’s the food that Chilangos (the nickname for denizens of that city) indulge in multiple times a week.
To put that food on the plate, Ibarra has hired chef Miguel Cuevos, formerly of Gonza Tacos y Tequila. Cuevos has responded with an offering that includes ropa vieja empanadas, tostadas a la Veracruzana, Mexico City-style quesadillas, and variations on the themes of guacamole and ceviche. Separate sections are devoted to tacos (on soft organic blue corn tortillas), enchiladas and entrees ranging from pipian rojo (pork loin in an almond-tomato-chile sauce) to dried chile-marinated mahi mahi.
Araiza is assembling an ambitious tequila selection - currently 25 or so, though he expects to more than double that number. The eventual goal it to offer flights of tequilas - silver, reposado and añejo from, say, Patron or Don Julio - to compare the effects of aging. He’s even got his eye on a couple of rare double añejos.
Located in the old Chili’s building (which has been transformed into a colorful cantina with a brash, witty decor highlighted by displays of children’s toys and lucha libre masks), Totopos (1388 Kildaire Farm Road; 919-678-3449; totoposfoodandtequila.com) serves lunch Tuesday-Saturday, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, and brunch on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.