NYC restaurant serves up Mexican cuisine with a twist

In New York, finding a Mexican restaurant is easy, but one spot on the Lower East Side is serving classic Mexican staples with a unique spin. Jajaja is serving up all vegan dishes.

Co-owners Koorosh Bakhtiar and Nima Garos developed the idea together.

"At first, we were going to do mainly Mexican food and found the challenges of people trying to eat vegan and trying to find something that they love with good vibe, good food, good service," Garos said.

The goal of Jajaja is to provide delicious food to both vegans and meat-eaters alike. The menu offers different plant-based substitutes to classic Mexican dishes like beef tacos and burritos.

"We want people that don't eat vegan to come here and enjoy the food and enjoy the drinks," Garos said.

Two of the restaurant's most successful dishes include Palm Carnitas tacos, made of pulled palm hearts and jackfruit, and Chipotle Sweet Potato Tacos, one of the many gluten-free options.

Their chorizo is also very popular among guests, who often can't distinguish that it is even vegan, according to Garos.

"We want people who eat heavy meat to come in here and kinda transition to being vegan," said Garos. "We don't want 100 percent vegan eaters. We want to transition people that usually eat meat to start to eat healthier, vegan, and plant-based."

Bakhtiar and Garos also want the atmosphere of the restaurant to transport guests away from the city and into California or parts of Mexico.
The décor of the 45-seater contains plenty of Mexican elements like a mosaic-tiled floor, lights resembling woven baskets and modest, Spanish music and wooden tables with colorful place settings.
The blinds are also drawn to hide the bustle of the city.

"When you come in here, you feel like you're somewhere else, and think that's almost like a good feeling -a good weight off your chest," said Garros. "It's almost like coming for vacation for lunch or dinner, getting out of New York."

With their colorful creations combined with a casual atmosphere, Bakhtiar and Garos hope to provide an experience that everyone can enjoy, vegan or not.

"When (customers) order something, we want them to walk away with the idea that vegetables can be delicious," Bakhtiar said. "They can be something as good, hearty, filling as Mexican street food without using any kind of animal product."

Jajaja is a name meant to be as fun as the food on the menu. Prices range from $8 to $14.

Jajaja is located at 162 E Broadway.
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