Mitchellville native Tiara Darnell is the owner of the only soul food eatery in Mexico City. According to DCist, Darnell was inspired to create Blaxicocina because she missed the tastes of her native town in Maryland while living in Mexico City.
Old Bay seasoning wasn’t easy to locate in Mexico City, according to Darnell. So, a few months ago, when her mother was scheduled to visit her, Darnell kindly requested that she bring “whatever you can.” But contrary to what she had anticipated, Darnell’s mother brought “gigantic things” of the premium Old Bay seasoning that can only be found at locations like Restaurant Depot.
Fortunately, that was what Darnell required to establish Blaxicocina, which is now possibly the only soul food restaurant in Mexico City, where she serves her signature Old Bay-seasoned French fries and other family favorites, including carrot cake and sweet tea, fried chicken, and cornbread.
“I’ve never owned a restaurant before, so this is all very new,” she remarked. “Old Bay has to come and play a part in this dream as well.”
Classic soul cuisine has been available in Mexico City’s Narvarte district for the past six months thanks to Darnell and her staff. She accomplishes it all using recipes passed down from her parents, who have strong ties to Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
The entrepreneur shared, “Things like that are foundational to soul food as we Black Americans know it. Pretty much every recipe that’s on the menu. These are all things that I made with my mom.”
Darnell expressed that her one challenge is finding authentic ingredients in Mexico. For instance, when she and her team first opened their doors, they discovered that there are specific gaps between how corn is utilized in Mexican food and American cuisine. She revealed she was unable to buy regular cornmeal or grits since the majority of the corn in Mexico is subjected to the nixtamalization process that makes items like tortillas.
“There’s a lot of stuff where we’ve had to take a step back and start from the beginning to achieve the dish that we want because those ingredients, as I know them in the U.S., are not here,” she said.
Meanwhile, she has started directly collaborating with friends and the neighborhood to acquire supplies, except Old Bay seasoning. Black Americans seeking an element of home and residents of Mexico City (Chilangos) have accepted and enjoyed Darnell’s food in the months after it first opened.
More than just food, the restaurant is also now the hub of a vibrant community of Black Americans who have immigrated to Mexico City from the United States under the term “Blaxit” to escape racism in the United States and to find a better quality of life with reduced living expenses. Mexico is the top foreign destination for U.S. travelers, according to the U.S. State Department. There are 1.5 million U.S. citizens living in Mexico now.
Mexico News Daily called Blaxicocina a “classic” immigrant business with strong ties to being Black and physically in Mexico.
According to the outlet, Darnell’s prior business ventures included wine and goat milk products. She started Blaxicocina last year by hosting culinary classes in her apartment, but she decided to expand once she could fit 70 people at once.