Some say the building at 9629 Belair Road is cursed.
The Nottingham property has seen a succession of restaurants come and go over the past two decades, with most not lasting very long. But that didn’t deter Tom Doxanas and Reynaldo Villatoro, who opened Sol Oaxaca Cocina Mexicana there this spring.
“We wanted to overturn the stigma,” says Doxanas.
Sol Oaxaca Cocina Mexicana chef Jesus Velasquez, who was born in Puebla, Mexico, sautés an entree of Verde Antequera. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)
First, they had to conduct a thorough cleansing of the space. Villatoro, his father, and Sol Oaxaca’s executive chef, Jesus “Chucho” Velasquez, cleared out stiff dining booths and TVs mounted to the walls to make room for décor that echoes the streetscapes of Oaxaca, Mexico, a region known for gastronomic contributions like mole and mezcal.
The spacious dining room now features archways, colorful shutters, wrought-iron touches and a “plaza” hung with string lights. It’s a fitting backdrop for the authentic Mexican food at Sol Oaxaca, which turns out classics like fajitas, enchiladas and street tacos, as well as Oaxacan specialties like mole-roasted chicken thighs and verde antequera shrimp sauteed with poblano peppers, bacon, shiitake mushrooms and queso Oaxaca.
Verde Antequera, a platter with steak, chicken and shrimp sautéed with poblano and red peppers, bacon, shitake mushrooms and onions, and topped with quest Oaxaca, at Sol Oaxaca Cocina Mexicana. (Amy Davis/Amy Davis)
The restaurant, which opened this year on Friday, May 13 — a playful reference to the building’s alleged curse — has long been a dream for Villatoro. The former bartender and restaurant industry veteran puts playful twists on staple dishes: Empanadas are served with a side of poblano aioli and mango marmalade, quesadillas use corn tortillas instead of flour ones and the Sonora Burrito comes stuffed with french fries in addition to rice, beans and meat.
Diners can also try “The Original Mexican crab cake,” a jumbo lump crab meat patty seasoned with Mexican spices.
The rest of the menu at Sol Oaxaca is something of a family affair: Villatoro’s mother, Maritza Villatoro, makes the restaurant’s desserts, including flan and tres leches cake, while his fiancee, Julia Merkotan, works as the restaurant’s beverage director, creating cocktails like “Ofrenda,” a combination of Sagamore Rye, hibiscus, chile ancho and marigold, and the “Oaxaca Negroni,” a mix of mezcal, sweet vermouth and banana liqueur.
Doxanas, the restaurant’s co-owner, is an old friend of Villatoro’s with a dining industry pedigree of his own. Doxanas’ uncle, Bill Doxanas, was the owner of Bel-Loc Diner, a beloved Towson greasy spoon that closed in 2017, and his grandfather, also named Tom Doxanas, was a founder of the local Double T Diner chain.
Dining room at Sol Oaxaca Cocina Mexicana. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)
The Sol Oaxaca co-owner developed a love for authentic Mexican cuisine as a child living in Tucson, Arizona. Back then, chimichangas were his favorite, and now his restaurant has a version of the dish — deep-fried flour tortillas stuffed with meat, beans, Mexican crema and avocado sauce — on the menu.
Step by step, chimichanga by chimichanga, Villatoro and Doxanas are working to overturn the “curse.” When they first announced plans for the restaurant, one naysayer predicted Sol Oaxaca would only last 94 days before shutting down.
So, in mid-August, the restaurant made “94th Day” T-shirts to celebrate the failed prophecy.
“There’s a lot of barriers to break,” says Doxanas, but “we’re intent on proving we can do it.”
Sol Oaxaca Cocina Mexicana
9629 Belair Road, Nottingham. 443-495-2558. soloaxaca.com
Copyright © 2022, Baltimore Sun
Copyright © 2022, Baltimore Sun

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