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Mochilero Kitchen backpacks up the 101

Oct 31, 2023Oct 31, 2023

After navigating through the pandemic, brother and sister duo Meliza Miranda and Jorge Cota felt ready to take on their next challenge; expanding Mochilero Kitchen east to North Scottsdale. (David Minton/ Progress Staff)

When Mochilero Kitchen opened its first location in Peoria in 2020, owners and siblings Jorge Cota and Meliza Miranda were excited to treat West Valley diners to a menu that Cota had creatively concocted.

A Tucson native, Cota has been involved in the Arizona culinary scene since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale in 2009. It wasn't until he decided to take a culinary trip unlike any other that he found a recipe for success.

In 2019, Cota packed most of his belongings into a backpack and journeyed to Mexico, visiting 23 states and tasting as many dishes as he could.

Though he was enamored with classic dishes like carnitas and chilies en nogada, Cota was most amazed by the simple ingredients used in most Mexican households to create mouthwatering dishes.

Watching these household chefs whip up meals for their neighbors and large families reminded Cota of his upbringing in Tucson where he helped his grandmother cook meals for his extended family.

"I grew up in the kitchen with my grandma and managed to cook for about a dozen people once every other night making stuff from scratch because it was cheaper that way," Cota recalled.

During his travels in Mexico, he was also called a "Mochilero" which translates to backpacker.

Upon his return, he told Miranda about the term and the concept for Mochilero Kitchen blossomed.

Though it got off to a hot start in 2020, the success was quickly stymied when the pandemic forced Mochilero Kitchen to shut its doors.

However, diners still couldn't get enough of Mochilero Kitchen's made-from-scratch meals.

"We had such a roller coaster with COVID," Miranda recalled. "We were open for only to-go meals then we were open for 50% capacity, so we really navigated that roller coaster pretty well."

Mochilero eventually began to move full speed ahead and finally reached the point it had been waiting for: the time to expand.

"We actually looked at Avondale and we looked at a couple of places," Miranda said.

However, when the opportunity arose to expand Mochilero Kitchen nearly 25 miles east via Loop 101 in northern Scottsdale, the brother-and-sister duo knew they couldn't pass it up.

The deal got even sweeter once the two set foot in their latest location off Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Thompson Peak Parkway.

"Once we walked in here, I knew we were walking into another Mochilero Kitchen," Cota said.

Though the space had the existing skeleton to become the next Mochilero Kitchen and the location felt right, it took a year to convert the space that formerly housed MAD Greens into a restaurant that captured the same atmosphere that made thePeoria location popular.

This included creating outdoor seating, an open atmosphere, bright wood interiors – including a wooden optical illusion that looks like the silhouette of Mexico when looked at from a certain viewpoint – and a custom mural airbrushed by mural and tattoo artist Daniel "El Faust" Campa.

Additionally, the store accommodates a specialized bar that will serve mescals, agaves and tequilas and cocktails like the grapefruit paloma.

But the food is the big draw for customers with dishes like the mushroom taco, a signature mole and tacos that utilize meats like duck and octopus. Cota and Miranda were chomping at the bit to open the new location by summer.

With the interior decorated, they had to find staff and local musicians, and finalize the menus so Mochilero Kitchen could kick things off in style on June 5..

"The perfect busy night for is when as you enter you will hear loud music be greeted by a happy staff, your food will be served within a certain time frame and you will be surrounded by a comfortable ambience where you won't want to just have a dinner cocktail, you’ll want two or three," Miranda said with a laugh.

Mochilero Kitchen

14850 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd., Scottsdale,

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