By Jack Moulton
La Chingadera Mexican Market, a new Mexican grocery store at 740 Bank Street, only opened in August, but its owner has been serving the Glebe for several years.
Emilio Escobedo, owner of La Chingadera, is also the owner of Margarita and Mona’s Taqueria restaurants on Bank Street. His latest business venture stems from the same premise as his restaurants, with a bit of a modern twist.
Born in Mexico, with a family history of catering and running restaurants, Escobedo came to Canada five years ago and noticed a lack of the Mexican food he had grown to love. “I decided to open Margarita,” he explains. “It’s been so successful that I had to open a second location.” Escobedo describes Margarita as a fine dining restaurant, while Mona’s Taqueria serves street food.
Although he studied law and became a lawyer in Mexico, Escobedo came to the Glebe to help his friend Aseem Bhatia, owner of the former Cabana’s Kitchen. Escobedo went to the restaurant’s opening and offered advice on Mexican authenticity. He says Glebe residents know authentic Mexican food from travelling to or living in Mexico. Bhatia initially offered to partner with Escobedo before eventually selling the location to him.
The story of La Chingadera originates with Escobedo’s need to help keep Mona’s Taqueria afloat during the numerous lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Because we were in a lockdown, our sales were really bad,” he says. “So I decided to start introducing Mexican products on two shelves I had back then.”
“People were so interested. They were coming to get products and also food from Mona’s Taqueria. After that, I was like ‘Okay, so I think this is a new business.’”
Escobedo explains that he saw the potential for the market not only from the interest shown at Mona’s Taqueria, but also from his own cooking experience when he came to Canada. He struggled to find ingredients to make even simple Mexican dishes – he often had to shop at several stores to find what he needed, if he could find it at all.
Having an adequate supply of authentic Mexican ingredients for his two restaurants was also a key factor in opening La Chingadera, with Escobedo admitting it was sometimes difficult to source products that “you don’t find at any other place.”
As he helps fill the void of Mexican products that once hampered him, Escobedo says the market has exceeded his expectations. “People love the store,” he says. “As soon as they walk in, they’re like ‘Oh my God, this is a product I used to buy.’”
He explains that La Chingadera offers “all the Mexican products you need, to make anything you want.” That includes dry peppers, vegetables, bread, candy and pop, among other things. When looking at their products, some brand names such as Takis, Nestle and Ruffles might catch the eyes of Canadians. However, regional flavours and products set La Chingadera apart from your average grocery store.
The reception to his business has been successful and far reaching, to the point where Escobedo has had customers from as far away as Montreal requesting delivery. He has potential plans to expand La Chingadera to Montreal or Toronto.
When it comes to the success of his business venture, Escobedo has nothing but gratitude for Glebe residents. He credits their support through the lows of the pandemic lockdowns and he’s quite happy in the neighbourhood as a result.
Those interested can visit La Chingadera’s website at la-chingadera.square.site to view stock and to place orders online for pick up or delivery, or you can call 613-233-3323. The market can also be found on Facebook and Instagram (@la.chingadera.ottawa). Store hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Jack Moulton is a recent Journalism graduate from Carleton University and a new Glebe resident.