When Chef Valentino Sandoval moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore three years ago, he knew the time had come to launch his dream.
“I’m really in love with Baltimore. The people are really nice and friendly,” Sandoval said. “I talked with my brothers and said ‘This is the right city to open a restaurant in.’ ”
This week, he’s working out the kinks at the realization of his dream: La Calle, Spanish for “the street,” is located at 10 South Street, the former home of Sydney’s Cafe. His three brothers serve as the general manager, bartender and maître d'.
Sandoval has been preparing to open his own spot for decades, modifying the idea as he moved between restaurant jobs in Philadelphia. In Baltimore, he became the chef de cuisine at Hampden’s Corner Charcuterie Bar.
He says the inspiration for La Calle’s modern Mexican cuisine comes from his own heritage and a trip he took around the country five years ago. La Calle’s flavors represent the distinct food scenes of several Mexican regions. Sandoval is waiting for his customers to decide which dish will become La Calle’s signature.
The 14-item lunch menu includes soups, salads, tacos, empanadas and other dishes topped with octopus, cactus, golden beets and Mexican cheeses. An additional five items are available for dinner.
The kitchen closes between lunch and dinner service for an hour. Sandoval said he hopes his liquor license will be approved this fall so the bar can offer a happy hour.
The 100-seat restaurant is divided among the bar, kitchen counter, lounge and dining room. In a few weeks, La Calle plans to offer brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
La Calle is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays. Brunch hours vary.