When The Adelaide Review speaks to Gallardo the new Unley Road restaurant has just recovered from its first weekend, a soft ‘pre-opening’ that nevertheless drew masses of excitable diners. Many made the trek down from Salisbury, where Gallardo’s ride or die fanbase remains effusive in its support.
Unlike most buzzy restaurant openings in Adelaide, the new space has not undergone a showy refit; there are no sleek curved surfaces or architecturally-designed features. There’s a Mexican flag pinned to one bright yellow wall, a map to another, technicolour ponchos draped over corners and stools and a bar-side mural of a pyramid scene that Gallardo points out with a smile. The ornate wrought iron railing that greets visitors is a hangover from the Thai restaurant that formerly occupied the space, but if the Southeast Asian flourishes now seem a little out of place, at least it too was made in Salisbury.
All of which is to say, it’s Gallardo’s food, and the community that has grown around it, that remains the heart of the business.
Having grown up in her mother’s restaurant in Veracruz before studying as a chef in Yucatan, Gallardo spent two decades in kitchens at home before arriving in Australia in 2007, where she worked a variety of jobs while saving money for a place of her own. “In the beginning it was a little hard; I didn’t speak English very well, I worked in childcare, nursing homes. But I saved the money, I worked in a kitchen.
“In Mexico it’s so easy, you sell from your house. You don’t have any money? You sell to your friends.” So that’s what she did, feeding friends and the local community in her garage on Sundays before making it official in 2015 in a small space on Amanda Street, Salisbury. “It’s like a family business,” she says of the original Taco Quetzalcoatl. “It’s smaller, my friends would come in and the Mexican community wanted tacos. Then later I expand into next door. We became a little bigger and I was so happy there.