We were devastated when we heard that our local, Stanley Beer Yard, would be shutting its doors and going through a revamp. For us, Stanley Beer Yard had that special something we just loved, and we were frequent visitors. So we could hardly believe the email we received that invited us to come say one final farewell. As I sat there on that winter’s evening across from some of my best Stanley Beer Yard buddies, sipping on my regular stout order, I couldn’t believe it would all soon be gone forever. We mused on what the new look would be, and tried to see if we could guess the new name. It was all very hush-hush and not even being “in the fold” so to speak would get us any insider info.
Truthfully, I needn’t have been quite so dramatic! The space would still be there, as would the same people, the cosy fireplace, the passion for great music and good food. What seemed like moments later, we got the email. The new spot was open. It’s name was finally revealed – Calexico! The name certainly intrigued me and I was dying to know what it was all about. We couldn’t even wait for the actual launch and headed through this past weekend to see for ourselves.
How happy I was to see so many of the old faces, and our beloved fireplace. The outdoor area still boasts the “let’s get a bunch of friends together” benches and long tables, along with the new look and feel decor in between.
I was first struck by the sign against the wall, as I entered. The X glowing in the fading afternoon light. I knew a little more now about the inspiration behind the name.
Calexico is a border city in California: a portmanteau of the words California and Mexico and a perfect intermingling of music genres, food and dance. The band of the same name is an Americana, Indie, Country, Folk and Latin rock band from Arizona. The music style, like the city it gets its name from, is a blend of southern Californian and Mexican inspired sounds.
“Their feel-good harmonies, alongside legends like Band of Horses, the Eagles, The Band, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Bob Marley and The Beastie Boys have inspired our very own Calexico: an Americana style restaurant and bar.
Calexico has its roots in great music and being first and foremost a vinyl lounge, we have decided to include a vinyl wall full of records from legendary musicians. We have included a classic record player, where patrons are welcome to play their own choice of vinyl during the day” says Larry Hodes.
I must admit that I entirely missed the opportunity to play my own vinyl selection. That’s because when we arrived, the band Georgetown was getting ready for their set. The perfect soundtrack for our first visit to Calexico.
It’s tough to break my habit of having a beer at my old beer yard, so I stuck to it. Tall Dark & Handsome decided he’d give one of the new cocktails a whirl, and ordered a mojito. I ordered a dark ale, the closest I could get to a stout on this occasion, but a fine substitute all the same.
We stared at the menu for a long time, still trying to get used to the idea that our old favourites were no more (farewell, “Sausage Fest”). The menu is compact but despite that, we took an age to decide. I had walked past the kitchen and spotted the beautiful golden chickens on the rotisserie so I was extremely tempted to try that but it would simply be too much for me.
Instead, we shared a starter – the Spinach, Feta & Sundried Tomato Quesadilla. I spotted the nachos and I was sorely tempted but TDH made the call and I thought it better that I not be boring and rather order something different from what I often get. The quesadilla was delicious and flavourful and a great starter to share! A good-sized serving, this is a great sharing option.
I really had a tough time choosing, as I said, but I finally decided to try the BBQ Wild Mushroom Skewer. I hoped I wouldn’t miss out on the meat when I overheard TDH ordering the sirloin! Fortunately for me, he is not averse to sharing. I do want to go back though to try the Double Double Bourbon Cheese Burger. I overheard another table talking about it animatedly so now I have food envy that must be sated. Apparently the Pork Ribs are to die for but we never got there!
You have some fantastic side options, and not just the usual boring things you find everywhere. I went for the salt & vinegar shoestring fries, which clearly has some American influence. We both got the Apple, Celery, Fennel & Cabbage Slaw, a wonderfully lightly dressed burst of crunchy freshness. Tall Dark & Handsome chose the Jalapeno & Lime Corn on the Cob as his second side. I managed to nab one of these and as a big fan of corn on the cob, enjoyed it a lot. Well cooked with just enough flavour to be evident without overpowering the natural tastiness of the corn.
No dessert, guys, as is our norm. The Apple Pie & Ice Cream dessert option was very close to tempting us but we were more than stuffed and could resist. I’m sure that some of our fellow regulars, perhaps Sir Noid or Wenchy, will give the desserts the test run it deserves.
The new Calexico will still offer you great music vibes in the form of their regularly performing live bands (weekends) and the much-loved DJs sets (nights) so be sure to make a turn and get to know your old favourite in its new guise. Sit back on the couch in front of the fire and reminisce on the old beer nights, while enjoying a delicious new cocktail. And remember, “REAL MUSIC NEVER GETS OLD”.