Like a lot of restaurants, La Chinesca — the new Mexican-Chinese restaurant operating inside an old Jiffy Lube on Spring Garden Street — was supposed to open last year. The team at 13th Street Kitchens, who also owns Kensington Quarters, Prohibition Taproom, and Cafe Lift, had been preparing for an opening date in May, even knowing it would be a lot of work to convert a former gas station into a restaurant. “You used to be able to drive a car into the space, so there’s all this metal framing in the floor,” Michael Pasquarello, who co-owns the restaurant with Jeniphur Pasquarello, says. Just when they felt they were making progress, the pandemic hit, and “the world took a massive break.”
This past weekend, over a full year since it was supposed to open, the long-awaited La Chinesca held its first dinner service, with pork adobada tacos and smoked salt mezcal palomas, all served under salvaged street lamps and in front of airy, refurbished garage doors. The retro interior design — led by Kate Rohrer of Rohe Creative — feels like if a Jiffy Lube was turned into a Mexican restaurant: it’s both industrial and sunny, warm and workaday.
Inside La Chinesca in the SpringArts neighborhood
While converting a pumping station into a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic would be a good enough conversation starter, there…