Business was booming at Sonora on Howard Avenue in Bed Stuy on a recent Saturday night. The tables and bar were filled with a notably wide cross section of locals.
A sister restaurant to the popular Tepache further west, Sonora fuses Brooklyn favorites with Sonoran specialities and flavors, a full bar and a bottomless “top shelf” brunch on weekends. The menu and prices cover a broad range, from $2.50 for a taco to $28 for a ribeye steak with cacahuate chonchy sauce, fries and green salad.
Originally Tepache intended to serve liquor, but a church across the street quashed that. This time, owner Jorge Soltero made sure to get the liquor license before opening.
“With Mexican food, we need to have a margarita,” he said.
The weekend brunch menu includes Mexican Eggs Benedict and avocado toast.
Dinner appetizers include ceviche, barbecued chicken wings, nachos, a steamed chicken and negro mole tamale wrapped in a banana leaf, and assorted quesadillas with sauteed vegetables, kale and crema. A $17 tlacoyos and salmon appetizer has grilled salmon, vegetables and banana pilloncillo sauce on a thick corn cake.
Vegetable sides are abundant, including three kinds of salads, corn on the cob and sautéed kale.
Entrees include burritos (with options such as barbecued vegetables or tofu), chili rellenos, prawns with coconut rice and greens, and a towering Sonoran Burger with wild mushrooms, carmelized onions, chipotle mayonnaise and a brioche bun.
For dessert, there is lime tequila souffle, mango mousse, and coconut ice cream with guava caramel strawberry sauce, among other options.
In the future, Soltero and Sonora manager Ricardo Percy plan to add more vegetarian and vegan options, delivery, weekly live music, and outdoor seating in the warmer months.
The space, located at 174 Howard Avenue near Decatur Street, features colorful tiles from Mexico selected by Soltero, exposed brick and wood tables. Soltero spent an entire year building out the new space, doing the work himself.
Originally from Sonora, the Brooklyn resident of 20 years learned construction from his uncles, who specialize in carpentry, welding and contracting in Mexico. More recently “artistic friends” have been teaching him design, Soltero said.
“I was saving my money, thinking what can I do with myself — and decided to open a restaurant,” he recalled of opening Tepache in 2015. Before that, Soltero had worked as a chef at Villa Pancho on Bedford and at two South African eateries, including Madiba Restaurant in Fort Greene.
He has also built out a number of restaurants in Manhattan for clients.
Sonora opened on October 27 with no web presence on purpose, hoping to get feedback from customers “before it hit Yelp,” said Percy, a native of East Flatbush who moved to Bed Stuy two years ago.
Many in the neighborhood already knew about the restaurant before it opened because they saw it under construction for a full year, he explained.
Although busy on weekend nights, “we see the most traffic on Sundays after church services,” Percy said, when the $65 bottomless brunch is popular. (So far, Sonora has had none of the issues one hears about at Manhattan brunch spots, he added.)
Now Soltero is thinking to open another eatery in Bed Stuy, where he lives with his family. Perhaps it will focus on another cuisine difficult to find in the neighborhood, he said.
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