.Lucas Morris-Lopez’s Pop-ups Storm the Central Coast

The San Juan Bautista native’s Bar La Afición project has one more run at Apéro Club before the talented chef returns to Mexico City

For chef Lucas Morris-Lopez’s first Bar “La Afición,” he went traditional with leeks vinaigrette at the Westside Santa Cruz wine bar Apéro Club. Poached leeks, a “vinaigrette of Apéro Club vinegar and Dijon,” a spoonful of the “ever-present green sauce,” toasted walnuts and a soft-boiled egg. 

“Classic for a reason,” Morris-Lopez says. “I love the idea of taking a humble ingredient, amplifying it and presenting it in its most perfect form.”

Before the San Juan Bautista native moved to Mexico City over three years ago, he lived and worked in Santa Cruz for nearly a decade—he was a line cook at the upscale pizza joint Bantam, among other things. The chef has been in town for the last few months visiting family—while delivering a barrage of unique pop-ups throughout the Central Coast—and exponentially building his fanbase. Morris-Lopez calls his pop-ups Bar La Afición, which loosely translates to “a fondness for something.”

“Good food, good music, good wine, good drinks,” he says. “[Bar La Afición] is just meant to be enjoyed.”

And the chef’s 30-plus local pop-ups have been nothing short of food coma bliss: from Ling Cod and Mackerel Terrine (cod seasoned with kelp, white wine, cream and mirepoix, studded with pickled mackerel and wrapped in cabbage and chard) to Saucisse Frites (handmade sausage and hand-cut, triple-cooked russets from Pinnacle in an old fashioned, double-stock demi finish).

Morris-Lopez started the Bar La Afición pop-up project in Mexico City on Mondays when most restaurants are closed. He could use the kitchen of the restaurant where he worked to prep.

“The pop-ups are like my test kitchen,” he says. “I’m always learning and trying to grow; refine my technique. I’m trying to do things the original way. Often, it’s harder and more laborious, but the payoff is much better.” 

Morris-Lopez says he grew up watching chefs like Jacques Pépin and Julia Child, who inspired him to make everything from scratch, like sausage, terrines, pates and aspics. He also came from what he calls the “old-school Bay Area” institution of cooking—working with or for chefs from Chez Panisse or offshoots, who taught him that the most successful and tasty dishes are the simplest, made using the best quality ingredients. Also, Morris-Lopez has learned that access to good ingredients and next-level recipes doesn’t necessarily result in a top-notch dish. It’s all about the things you can’t be taught, like love and hard work, that separates good chefs from amazing chefs. Morris-Lopez cites Alice Waters as one of his biggest influences; she’d instead whisk aioli by hand even when she had access to an electric blender. 

After moving to Mexico City, Morris-Lopez realized his take on Mexican food wasn’t as good as he had thought. It was a wake-up call. He knew it was time to evolve, so he focused on casual Southwestern European cuisine, primarily traditional French and Spanish dishes.

“I’m super into old-school European classics,” he says. “Comforting, like grandma’s cooking.”

When Morris-Lopez returns to Mexico City, he plans to get to work on opening his first restaurant and aims to debut sometime in 2023. He envisions a neighborhood restaurant, wine bar with 20-25 seats and a simple yet dynamic menu.

In the meantime, Bar La Afición has at least one more pop-up planned for Sunday, Jan. 8, at Apéro Club. Service begins at 1pm, and Morris-Lopez will serve Pissaladière—traditionally, a doughy Provençal tart usually topped with sweet, caramelized onions, salted anchovies and olives—among other things. Get there early!

Follow Lucas Morris-Lopez on Instagram at @laficioncdmx for up-to-date Bar La Afición info.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Good Times E-edition Good Times E-edition