Sergio Carrera and El Frijolito were both born in 1985; his parents pulled off the incredible feat of having a child and opening a restaurant in the same year. Carrera pretty much grew up in the popular Watsonville spot. He started working there at 15. Initially, Carrera went to music school—he was a prominent local musician for years, but says the restaurant life path ultimately won out. After several years as GM, he took part ownership of El Frijolito to help out the family due to pandemic-related stresses.
Open every day from 10am-7pm, Carrera defines the spot as classic Mexican, with recipes from his grandparents who were born in Durango and Michoacan. He says the burrito is one of the most popular items—with over 200,000 sold yearly—and comes in wide varieties, including carne asada, al pastor, shrimp and chile relleno. Enchiladas, chile verde and hangover-busting menudo on Sundays are also favorites. But they’ve become known for their house salsa, which blends green and red and boasts chunks of fresh onions and bunches of cilantro.
Carrera took a brief descanso with GT to talk about El Frijolito’s enchiladas, and how music and food overlap.
How are music and food similar?
SERGIO CARRERA: I’ve had individual thoughts on both, but now that I’m thinking about it, cooking food for people and serving it to them is a very intimate experience. Like, they’re going to eat your food. And music is also an intimate experience, and similar in the sense that a song can move you in a very personal way, just like a great meal can.
What makes your enchiladas unique?
With traditional enchiladas, they are first dipped in a chile and then fried on the comal (flat-top grill). But with ours, we fry the tortilla first, and then we smother them with our housemade enchilada sauce, so they are kind of swimming. Frying them first like this and then saucing them keeps them softer, which allows us to stuff them fuller of meat or cheese. Our sauce just has a little kick, and because there’s a lot of it, you can mix it with the rice and beans, and I love to eat it that way.
El Frijolito Restaurant, 11 Alexander St., Ste. B, Watsonville, 831-724-8823.