Chef Julian Medina and restaurateur Louis Skibar have opened Kuxé, an authentic fonda named after the indigenous Totonac Mexican (a group that was native to Puebla) word for corn. It celebrates the roots, traditions, and childhood upbringings of those who work in the restaurant. They’ve defined the cuisine as “Cocina de Pueblo” (or “Hometown Cooking”), since the menu shines a light on the hometown recipes of its team members. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we truly are all in this together, and we need to rely on one another to move forward,” said Medina and Skibar. “At Kuxé, we are sharing our staff’s childhood memories through food.” Eager to share their heritage and the authentic Mexican dishes that were taught to them by generations of family members, the team has collectively created a menu with a well-defined central idea: community, family, comfort, and tradition. Kuxé allows the chefs to embrace their history, share their stories, and bring the traditional dishes from their childhood home to their customers.
Diners can expect tacos like Taco de Birria with braised beef in red chiles, melted chihuahua cheese, onion, cilantro, salsa verde, and a cup of consome; Taco de Panza de Borrego with lamb stomach steamed in pencas leaves served with jalapenos and vegetables in escabeche; and Taco de Coliflor “Cochinita” with cauliflower marinated Cochinita-style, steamed in banana leaves, hazelnut salsa macha, and habanero-red onions. Main plates include options like Mole de Caderas with steamed lamb shank huasmole marinated in chiles, guaje seeds, seasonal vegetables, and Mexican rice; Pipian Rojo with pumpkin seeds, chile guajillo and tomato sauce with choice of tender pork, chicken or seasonal vegetables, and Mexican rice; Costillas de Puero en Salsa Verde with braised pork ribs in tomatillo salsa, verdolagas, potatoes, frijoles puerco, and Mexican rice; and Mone de Pescado with steamed Chatham cod in banana leaf, sweet plantains, tomato, and Fresno chiles; in addition to a Tlayuda, Tetela and Cemita.
On the beverage front, a variety of Mexican spirits are on hand, such as Sotol, Raicilla – and, of course, tequilas and mezcales. A few cocktail highlights include the Oaxacan Sunsets with Mezcal, St Germain, guanabana, coconut water, lime and coconut foam; the La Dasy with Sotol, aperol, prickly pear, lime, and agave; and the In the Jungle with Raicilla, strawberry shrub, and lemon. There are also a variety of margarita offerings, as well as beer and wine.
Recipes feature both traditional and modern techniques and corn is sourced directly from Oaxaca, Mexico. Making their own masa using a molino (the traditional corn grinder) and nixtamalization (an ancient process of steeping corn in alkaline water, cooking it, and grinding it into flour) is essential to the authenticity of the menu and is used to make items such as tortillas, quesadillas, tacos, memeles, tetelas, and tlayudas.
In addition to the story of each dish on the menu, diners will also be able to read the personal stories of each team member, like those of Yuli Palafox and Fidel Rodriguez:
Yuliani Palafox says: “I was born and raised in Cholula Puebla, a small town called Santa Maria Coronango where textile mills are really popular and where I worked as a teenager. I was taught to help my mother and grandmother make staple dishes in our native Puebla – like mole, tamales, and corn tortillas from nixtamal. I moved to New York City 15 years ago when I was hired by Chef Medina. He saw my talent as a cook and put me in charge of the quesadillas station at Toloache and showcased some of my specialties. Shortly thereafter, I also started covering the guacamole and ceviche stations. I am honored to share my recipe for Mole Poblano – a very special dish to me – because whenever there was a fiesta in my family, my mother and grandmother would prepare this dish. We would all gather outside and fry the chiles, nuts, and spices that flavored the chicken in the mole. It brings me joy to share it with our diners too.”
Fidel Rodriguez adds: “I am originally from Cuyoaco, Puebla in Mexico. Cuyoaco is a small, agricultural town, known for its corn, barley, potatoes, beans, garlic, and a lot of fruit. My parents used to have a taco stand serving barbacoa, al pastor, and mole tacos. As a child, I would go every day after school and help them out. My mom always enjoyed making her own homemade tortillas for the taquería. The secret for homemade tortillas starts with cleaning the corn thoroughly, cooking it for 3 or 4 hours, and letting it cool for 5 hours before grinding it and finishing that process with a mealing stone. After finishing middle school, I moved to Mexico City to work at Taqueria Xotepingo and my love for cooking started to flourish. At 18, I moved to the United States with the help of my brother. My first job in New York City was at a taco stand – that’s where I met Chef Julian Medina, who used to come by for tacos. He gave me the opportunity I was looking for in 2007 – to work, grow, and learn next to him at Toloache. I am happy to share recipes for Taco de Birria and Taco de Carnitas – both tacos are special to me because they were staples in my house growing up as a child. The carnitas would be eaten on the weekends, while the birria were served for fiestas.”
In a time of chaos and uncertainty, the familiar always offers some relief. Embodying the spirit of the well-known Spanish phrase “Mi Casa es Su Casa,” Skibar and Medina hope to provide a sense of comfort to both their employees and patrons with the opening of Kuxé. As such, Kuxé is meant to reflect habitability, organicity, and the warmth of a home full of childhood memories and dreams – some of which may be related to the cuisine, but all of which are intended to make you feel part of a family.
Kuxé is located at 205 Thompson Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The restaurant is open Sunday through Thursday from 5:00PM to 10:00PM and Friday & Saturday from 5PM-11PM. The restaurant will also open for weekend brunch at a later date.