WEST SACRAMENTO -- Zocalo is melding its rich tradition of modern Mexican food with a spot that had celebrated dim sum under the guidance of Chew Lam since 1960.
"We love the idea that we're just right across the street, right across the river really, from our original location that's been there for 14 years," said chef Ryan Rose.
Those behind the popular, local brand are now nine months into their plan to create the new spot in West Sacramento.
"The owner, Ernesto Jimenez, who actually lives here in West Sac, is in Spain right now just trying to get those creative juices going as to what this is gonna look like," Rose said. "But at the beginning of next year, we're super excited to open this as some type of diner."
Lam retired last October. There's still a rotary phone on the wall and notes written in Chinese -- but not for long.
Zocalo is just starting to rearrange the insides of what he left behind into what will be a central kitchen for all of its facilities by December.
"It's going to be like the heartbeat of the company," Rose said.
All preparation for big batch sauces and dishes will happen there for all three stores. It will help the company focus on food quality while handling upcoming minimum wage increases without passing the increased expenses onto customers.
"Instead of needing three prep cooks because you'd need one prep cook at each store, you may be able to do that same work but with only two people here," Rose said.
Prepping items and staff at a centralized kitchen then driving those basics to other locations may sound like you might end up with food not as fresh and flavorful as what Zocalo is known for. Chef Rose tells FOX40 the situation is exactly the opposite.
He says changing up food preparation this way actual slows down the cooking process for key dishes, keeping procedures more in line with authentic Mexican traditions.
That central kitchen is phase one of Zocalo's plan for its new location. A dining room from which guests can watch all that work happen is phase two.
"There will be a bar," Rose said with a smile. "It has a liquor license already and we have a set to open to a big, beautiful patio, which all of our Zocalos are known for as well."
Along with the "heartbeat of the company," Zocalo's corporate offices will also move to the West Sacramento location.