Alebrijes brings fusion of Mexican color, taste to Incline Village
October 13, 2016
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Originally from La Paz, Baja California, and Mexico City, Mexico, Armando Reyes moved to the Lake Tahoe area in 1990 with a decades-old dream of opening up a Mexican restaurant.
Reyes, co-owner of the recently opened Alebrijes Mexican Bistro in the Raley's Center, says that growing up, he would tell his mom that someday he would open a restaurant, "so she taught me how to cook."
He then came to the U.S. and noticed there was no original, real Mexican food.
"There are so many dishes from Mexico, but we don't want to have everything; we want to bring in something different that no one has ever had before," Reyes says.
With all of Alebrijes' owners having ties in Mexico City, the generations of family concoctions are used to create unique food for their guests.
"All of our families are involved in the cooking," says Reyes. One of the cooks, Enrique Morales, is a former construction worker who is considered part of the family and entrusted with the secret recipes.
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At Alebrijes, instead of tacos and burritos on the menu, you'll find authentic pozole, chile rellenos, cochinita pilbil, and gringas.
There are also unique dishes that are only brought out on special occasions, like Reyes' favorite dish, the Chiles en Nogada — a green poblano chile stuffed with cheese and covered in a walnut crème and pomegranate seeds on top.
The restaurant also keeps a fresh batch of juices, which changes daily — maybe one day it will be a strawberry milk mix sweetened with walnut, or pineapple juice with chia seeds. On this particular day, Alebrijes is serving a jug of hibiscus.
Along with its aguas frescas, Alebrijes has exclusive variations of margaritas made with jalapeno, watermelon or tamarind. Reyes' favorite is a Mango Habanero Margarita, which tantalizes the palate with a sweet and spicy mix.
"The habanero is one of the best chiles in Mexico, but it's hot, so you have to be careful with it," Reyes says.
Reyes and his longtime friends/co-owners Justo Marquez and Belen Micheas watched out for available empty spaces in the region when they stumbled upon where the Wild Alaskan restaurant used to be.
The trio got into the space in January 2016 and spent the next several months repainting, putting in new light fixtures, redoing the bar, and installing new hardwood floors. They named it Alebrijes — after the multi-colored Oaxacan-Mexican sculptures of fantastical animals created by Mexico City native Pedro Linares.
"We chose the name because it's color expression," Marquez says. "Life isn't just black and white; it's multi-colored. We came to offer big expression of our cuisine, a dish from each state within Mexico."
"I moved to Incline Village from Mexico City 17 years ago, and for me it is very special to work in hospitality/the service industry. I like seeing smiles on people's faces when they are happy with the service," Marquez adds. "This opening is exciting, and the response from the community has been very positive. We want to offer a comfortable space, good service and good food — our goal is to get a balance between these three aspects."
Alebrijes Mexican Bistro is located at 930 Tahoe Blvd., No. 901, in the Raley's Center. It boasts a full bar and recently expanded menu, offering traditional Mexican fare from noon to 9 p.m. every day.
"Everyone says this is the land of opportunity and here it is, my dream coming true. I love this country; if you really work hard, anything is possible," Reyes says. "But it's not only me; I couldn't have made this dream come true without my friends. It was all of our dream together."
Kayla Anderson is an Incline Village-based freelance writer with a background in marketing and journalism. Email her at email@example.com.