Juan Sanchez hadn’t found the chilaquiles and traditional Guadalajaran food he grew up with in Greenpoint, so like many immigrants in a new place, he recreated it himself. Still, he wished there was somewhere he could go out to eat his favorite comfort foods in the neighborhood, so he decided he’d open a restaurant himself. This was in early 2020, and we all know what comes next. Still, Sanchez would not be deterred.
Though a brick-and-mortar restaurant is now an abstract dream for Sanchez, he’s focused on his at-home food business, Citlali Cocina. In late July, he decided to share the chilaquiles recipe he’s been perfecting for 12 years, with a pick-up only business based out of his home near McGolrick Park.
Orders for chilaquiles, with the option to add chicken breast, sliced avocado or a poached egg, can be placed via Instagram, and picked up during a weekend time slot. In October, he plans to launch a new special, and change up the dish monthly. He’s currently think birria, barbacoa or a torta that could be either meat or vegetarian and developing recipes for Citlali’s next phase.
Citlali Cocina’s ingredients are sourced from Mexican markets in South Williamsburg and local farmer’s markets, with orders topping off at 30 per week. Citlali, which is an Aztec name meaning star, felt to Sanchez like the perfect name for his project. It’s his hobby and passion while he’s currently unemployed, and can lead to his dreams once the pandemic settles down.
Ghost kitchens have popped up all over the city in the wake of Covid-19, and Sanchez is one of many Greenpoint neighbors feeding the community with creations from their own homes. Earlier this year, local chef Casey Corn sold provisions like pickled veggies and hummus from her Fourth Floor Foods pop-up, and Chef Hando Youssouf launched Vietnam Away, vending traditional Vietnamese fare from a menu he’d create each week. As New York’s dining culture continues to evolve, it’s likely we’ll see more ad hoc, solo restaurants launching in the neighborhood, perhaps even inspired by Citlali Cocina’s success.