The name is just the first clue that Gringo a Go Go is not your typical Mexican restaurant. There’s the location, in a converted building that began as a service station in the 1930s (and more recently, was home to the short-lived Ruben’s Downtown diner). The tiny 10-table dining room (though a patio will offer more seating come warm weather). The bike rack that spells out GRINGO.
Even the opening was unconventional. For the first few weeks since Gringo a Go Go opened in early January (or was it late December? Owner Ben Shelton was so busy with inspections and other details, he isn’t sure), it was in “beta mode,” offering a limited menu: chips with made-to-order guacamole or house-made salsa (seven options, from pico de gallo to peanut), burritos, and taqueria-style tacos. A longtime vegetarian, Shelton made sure that there were plenty of alternatives to the typical carnivore-catering list of taco fillings.
“Carnitas and asada have been popular, but we’ve been selling a ton of nopales, too,” says Shelton, whose name is familiar to local foodies as founding chef of the Five Points landmark Lilly’s Pizza.
Now he’s ramping up the offering with hot entrees, which he’ll be offering initially as nightly specials. He’s ordered some rabbits, and if the weather doesn’t hold up their delivery, he plans to feature them this weekend in a regional specialty. He’s got a spicy Yucatecan dish in mind, but hasn’t decided yet.
In the coming weeks, Shelton plans to offer a Sunday brunch featuring posole. Not just the familiar version, naturally, but also a vegetarian posole de frijol that he fondly recalls from a sojourn in Mexico. He plans to call the brunch - what else? - Holy Mole Posole.
Gringo a Go Go (100 N. Person St.; 919-977-1438; gringoagogonc.com) is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Once the weather is warm enough to open to patio, Shelton plans to expand hours to include Mondays.
Greg Cox, the lontime restaurant critic for the N&O, also reports restaurant news. Tune in at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF for his radio show. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.