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Restaurants

North County set to welcome upscale fast casual Mexican restaurant to its ranks

Casero Taqueria
The trio behind North County’s Casero Taqueria: Craig Applegate (left), Clayton Wheeler and executive chef Julio Castillo.
(Haley Hill Photography)

Set to launch on July 4, Casero Taqueria is set to bring upscale fast-casual Baja-inspired Mexican cuisine to hungry folks in Carlsbad. Located inside Bressi Ranch with views of Leo Carillo Canyon, Casero, which means “homemade,” features a bar, patio, kids area, and mercado, where guests can take goodies to go and prepare at home.

Co-founded by Clayton Wheeler and Craig Applegate, Casero consulted with renowned local chef Alex Carballo on the menu and brought on Julio Castillo as the in-house executive chef. Ahead of the restaurant’s opening, PACIFIC caught up with Wheeler and Castillo to find out more about the inspiration for Casero and a few must-try dishes from the menu.

Why did you decide fast casual for Casero?
CLAYTON WHEELER: I think that there’s been a void in the Mexican restaurant industry. In fast casual, it’s between fast food burritos to sit down restaurants running for 30 to 40 years that, in my opinion, are not chef driven or innovative with the menu. It’s marrying our vision of a chef-driven concept, where people have the flexibility to hang out for two hours or come in for 15 minutes and get on the road.

Why Bressi Ranch?
WHEELER: There’s a dense business and young family population here. Our group is community minded and we feel it fits the atmosphere we like to enter. It’s grossly underserved for a great quality restaurant.

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Where in Baja were you inspired?
WHEELER: All through Baja. I grew up surfing k38 in Ensenada and had trips to Scorpion Bay and down in Cabo fishing. The upturn of Valle de Guadalupe also gave us a lot of inspiration.

What’s the vibe of Casero?
WHEELER: It’s elevated fast casual, designed to be a little more upscale, with concretes, metals and woods, downplayed with casual apparel and uniforms for staff. Our color palate is inspired by what you see driving down the road in Baja: desert reds, sand yellows, ocean blues, gray concretes, and weathered woods.

Casero Taqueria
A rendering of Casero Taqueria, which is scheduled to open on July 4.
(Courtesy photo)

Favorite dish from Baja you brought back?
WHEELER: Tacos for sure, and fresh fish.

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JULIO CASTILLO: Fresh fish, lobsters and shrimp.

What local fish will you be working with at Casero?
CASTILLO: Mahi mahi, sea bass, white cod, and pollock.

What’s a must try dish?
CASTILLO: Birria goat taco, we marinate it 24 hours, and slow cook it on low for 2 to 3 hours.

A must take home from the mercado?
WHEELER: Rajas con crema, sweet corn with poblano peppers in sweet cream sauce, it’s one of our appetizers. It’s authentic to Mexico and you can’t grab it at any market.
CASTILLO: The Mexican tiger shrimp ceviche, with cilantro, cucumber, and onions, with homemade tortilla chips.

Casero Taqueria: 2674 Gateway Rd. #195, Carlsbad, caserotacos.com


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