Bracero Cocina is about to spice things up in Little Italy, modern Mexican style! Only if you’ve been under a rock for the last few months would you not have heard of Bracero. It’s been one of the most anticipated restaurant openings for the region. I say for the region because the partners, cuisine, contributing artists, team, and chef alike are synonymous with San Diego & Baja. The name, Bracero Cocina, was influenced by and designed to pay homage to, the bracero program. Bracero refers to one who works using his or her arms & hands. This tribute is reflected throughout the stunning venue.

The Structure & Interior

From the outside, Bracero is visually intriguing. floor to ceiling windows with doors that open up welcome you and also preview the hustle, bustle and liveliness of the first floor, which is first come first serve. Assorted 4 tops, communal seating and a cocktail bar, foster an inclusive atmosphere! Walking towards Bracero you can also observe the 2nd floor mezzanine area. The lighting and structure are so pleasing that they immediately draw you in! Second floor dining is a more intimate reservations space, and bookings are off the charts! 🙂

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The interior is modern yet rustic, reminiscent of an artist’s gallery/workshop. Beautifully appointed interiors are by Bells & Whistle. Sombreros, essential to the braceros, line one wall, while another wall displays antique farm tools. I’ve employed the term artist previously, and feel that word best describes all parties involved in projects like this. From Culinary artists in the kitchen, to artists designing custom cooking ovens, it all comes together beautifully and naturally.

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The Kitchen & The Food

Upon arrival, both floors maintain an open view of the kitchen and for tantalizing aromas to surround your senses . The way the interior was designed, it allows you to see the cocktail bar from both floors!!

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The restaurant also features a custom Caja China (roasting box) with a Santa Maria grill, made by local artist, Gustaf Anders Rooth. Downstairs there is a “crudo bar” featuring local seafood including ceviche and Carlsbad shellfish and other goodies from Catalina Offshore.

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The Modern Mexican menu at Bracero features items rarely seen in Little Italy, or San Diego for that matter. At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Javier Plascencia. His culinary awesomeness has been on display at Tijuana’s Mision 19, Finca Altozano, Erizo, Romescos and basically events EVERYWHERE. Javier never seems to sleep! His passion definitely comes through in his food so… Maybe he sleeps while he surfs? 😉 At Bracero he successfully ties in dishes, influences, and experiences from his portfolio of restaurants . At Friends & Family night, we had a glimpse of some of the items offered, and it left us yearning for more!

La Comida

CAJA CHINA LAMB ROASTED ASADO
stewed heirloom beans / pan fried potatoes / green garlic & herb salsa verde

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SHRIMP GREEN MACHINE CEVICHE TOSTADA
avocado / watercress

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HOUSE GUACAMOLE
tepary & yurimuni crispy beans / vegetable ash & zaåtar tostadas

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TACOS DE FIDEO

green chorizo / crema / avocado /
18 month aged cotija

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CHILAQUILES ROJOS
suzie’s farm fried egg / taj farm crema / chipotle / avocado / pickled red onion

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Bracero also features handmade tortillas made onsite from fresh masa, San Diego & Baja Craft Beers as well as tequila, mezcal, and of course, Baja wines.

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The Peeps

Although the kitchen and staff were incredibly busy, Chef Javier still found time to pop out, say hi to people, & see how everything was going. Also on hand was partner Luis Daniel Peña, who took a few minutes to talk to us about passion, heart, and the support from the community. A few of his priorities? Make sure that from the moment you walked in, the passion and energy surround you! He wants you to taste the love that goes into each dish. He wants you to feel like family. And he wants you to come back – mission accomplished! We went back today!

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Chatting up vino and handling biz was general manager JM Woody van Horn, who stopped for a few minutes with us. He talked to us about the credenza that his father-in-law Kiki Flourie built (specifically for the restaurant), wine, as well as the his goals to ensure that everyone has a one-of-a-kind experience. Make sure to say hola when you see him!

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To sum up the night?

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Labor of love throughout. Love it.

DISCLAIMER: My party and I were invited as Chef Javier’s guests to dine at Bracero Cocina. The chef generously picked up the tab for us on this occasion. My opinions are my own, and no compensation was received from the restaurant or its affiliates for writing this article, and since then we’ve already been back!

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