Mi Cocina veteran opens new modern Mexican restaurant in Sunnyvale
A former Mi Cocina pro has opened his own restaurant on the southeast side of Dallas in Sunnyvale: Called La Carretera Modern Mex Kitchen, it's from Erick Barrera, who worked with beloved restaurateur Mico Rodriguez for many years first at Mi Cocina and then at Mesero, Mico's post-Mi Cocina startup.
Barrera and his wife Cindy first opened La Carretera in 2020 as a taqueria, but expanded a few months ago into a full-service restaurant in the same location at 3630 N Belt Line Rd., with patio space and a full bar with beer, wine, and margaritas, on the rocks and frozen.
Originally from Guanajuato, Barrera grew up working in restaurants in Mexico, from pizzerias to taquerias, so hospitality is what he knows best. In the U.S., he started his career at Park City Club, the private club in Preston Center, before going to work with Mico at Mi Cocina, then Mesero, where he not only led the opening of many locations as Executive Chef, but also brought innovative items to the menu such as salmon, redfish, and seared tuna, helping to define what Mesero’s menu is today.
"I like cooking and creating and felt like it was time to do it in my own kitchen," he says.
His menu at La Carretera ranges from tacos to shrimp brochette. Prices are affordable, topping out at $25 for a ribeye steak.
Tacos are a big category, with traditional fillings such as adobo chicken, trompo, carnitas, chorizo, brisket, or barbacoa; as well as high-end specialty tacos with blackened shrimp, hongos & poblano, salmon, tuna, or orange chicken. They also do trendy tacos de birria, as well as quesadillas de birria.
Upscale entrees include blackened salmon, with a unique breading made of crunched-up Cheetos and tortilla chips, served with rice and a veggie medley — zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage, red/green peppers, and onions — for $20.
Rib Eye Mama Maya is a 10-ounce ribeye with cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, poblano peppers, green cabbage, cilantro, sauteed with olive oil, served with bean soup, guacamole, pico de gallo and tortillas. The shrimp brochette consists of four jumbo bacon-wrapped shrimp with rice, de la olla beans, and guacamole, for $15.
Their housemade mole is another signature, prepared daily with 38 ingredients, including chocolate, ancho chile, pasilla, peppers, guajillo, and cinnamon, for a balance of spicy and sweet.
There are $9.99 lunch specials, and they do a weekend brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, with dishes like French toast and chilaquiles. Delectable desserts include an admirably tall layered tres leches cake and caramel-filled churros.
Mural at La Carretera Modern Mex Kitchen.La Carretera
Their corn tortillas are from El Maíz, Tortillería y Taquería in North Dallas, which are interestingly also from Guanajuato and prepared in the same style that Erick grew up with in his hometown.
La Carretera also does classic items such as enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos, and even a brisket burger for good measure; but Barrera says that their goal is to step outside the traditional mold.
"When it came time to define the concept, I wanted something modern, unique, and not a copy of other Mexican places," he says.
The dining room, which seats about 120, is simple but chic, with a large Mexican street graffiti-style mural as a centerpiece. And rather than the usual chips and salsa (which are available on the menu), he welcomes customers with frijoles in small, branded hand-painted cups called cantaritos.
This has a special place in his heart as the containers were bought by his mother, who unfortunately passed away just a week before the restaurant opened.
He calls it modern Mexican, which he describes as "Mexican culture with an upscale touch."