A new and colorful addition to Downtown Anaheim, set to open in late May, is a full service Day of the Dead-themed Mexican restaurant, Calaca Mamas Cantina. The family-friendly concept, conceived and founded by restaurateurs and sisters Angela and Mariam El Haj, will replace the Captain Kidd’s at 1550 S. Harbor Blvd., in a conveniently walkable location directly across the street from Disneyland and its resorts.
The space, which was renovated by Architect Charles Ramm, will seat 200 guests, including a dining room with several banquettes for parties of four, and a larger, semi-private area to accommodate parties up to 12. The El Haj sisters collaborated with Deborah Mayne on the restaurant design to create a one-of-a-kind space, inspired by Day of the Dead celebrations, which includes large scale murals by local street artists from the Los Angeles design studio Splatterhaus, along with art collected from the sisters’ travels to Mexico, and a central double-sided altar. The large altar, connecting the dining room and cantina, is adorned with marigold flowers and is dedicated to sisters’ parents who have both passed. In the cantina area, double doors open onto the patio, giving the space an open-air atmosphere. And the patio, which is sure to become a fan-favorite, will feature a large fire pit and unparalleled nighttime views of the Disneyland fireworks display.
“While we have been in the restaurant industry for many years, this is our first where we have built the concept from the ground up. Since Day of the Dead traditions and celebrations have always resonated with Angela and I, despite not being Mexican ourselves, we wanted to pay homage to a culture that celebrates life and honor that heritage while still creating a space that was uniquely us. In fact, we incorporated nodes to our family throughout the design and decor,” says Mariam. “‘Calaca’ means ‘sugar skull,’ which is an iconic representation in Day-of-the-Dead celebrations, and we’re both proud moms, so we added ‘Mamas’ to it. The space was actually originally named ‘Mom’s Country Kitchen’ so Calaca Mamas is a reference to the restaurant’s heritage, as well.”
The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu is inspired by the sisters’ love of Mexican food and culture. It will include a wide variety of Mexican favorites alongside some fun twists on classics, such as the ‘Walking Taco’ featuring chicken tinga and carne asada, chihuahua and cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, crema all in a bag of Fritos corn chips. Breakfast entrees include favorites like Chilaquiles con huevos, Breakfast Tacos, Huevos Rancheros, and breakfast burritos or bowls. Appetizer options include Gooey Queso Fundido, fresh made Guacamole, and the creative ‘Tots con Todo’ made with carne asada on top of crispy tater tots smothered in queso and garnished with jalapeňos, crema, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Lunch and dinner entrees include tacos, burritos, and bowls which can be ordered with the guests option of protein. There’s also a selection of ‘Especiales de la Casa’ that serves up dishes like the ‘Achiote Al Mar’ made with grilled achiote marinated mahi mahi, avocado salad, and charred tomatillo salsa, served with red rice and beans. Guests can complete their meal with a classic sweet treat from the dessert menu, such as the tabletop Churro Cart and ‘Abuela’s Flan,’ which is based on a family recipe passed down to the sisters.
The bar program, expertly crafted by mixologist TJ Majeske, will include a selection of margaritas and specialty refreshments including the ‘Churros on Ice Margarita,’ and the ‘Pina Rica’ which was inspired by the fan-favorite Dole Whip and can be ordered boozy or virgin for the kids. All the cocktails will be handcrafted and prepared in small batches utilizing hand squeezed juices, housemade syrups, and fresh produce as garnishes.
“Spanish is the second-most spoken language in Southern California, yet we saw a void of family-friendly Mexican restaurants in Anaheim. When it came to the restaurant menu and bar program, we knew that we wanted to stick to tradition and highlight authentic Mexican dishes while also infusing it with fun and elements of the unexpected,” says Angela. “I think we are most proud of our ingredients, which are all non-GMO and sustainably sourced. Ensuring the highest quality and standards of product was a non-negotiable for us, and we are confident that our guests will appreciate this high level attention to detail and care.”
Calaca Mamas will be open seven days a week.