For two years, Jacqueline Gonzalez had been working to open Xochitl Cocina Mexicana (pronounced so-cheel), a Tampa Heights restaurant inspired by her experiences growing up cooking with her grandmother. The general public got their first taste of Gonzalez’s family recipes on March 9. Just nine days later, she made the decision to close Xochitl out of concern for her staff’s health and safety. “When Armature Works [across the street from Xochitl] closed, I knew it was time for me to do the same,” she says.
The restaurant has since reopened with a menu of dishes and cocktails influenced by the cuisines of the various regions of Mexico from which Gonzalez’s family hails. Some recipes, like the frijoles borrachos (drunken beans), are her grandmother’s, while others were developed with lots of time and research. Gonzalez tested different carnitas recipes until she found one that brought back childhood memories of eating the seasoned pork from vendors at Xochimilco, a tourist attraction a few hours outside of Mexico City. “[Opening Xochitl] has certainly been an education in the tremendous variety of Mexican food,” Gonzalez says. “I strive to continue to share my family recipes, and also to learn more about the modernization of those recipes, while still capturing their ancestral essence.”
WHAT TO KNOW:
Xochtil | 307 W. Palm Ave. | Tampa, FL 33602 (833) 962-4485 | Mon-Sat, 5 to 9 p.m.