Small Business, Neighbourhood Gem: Toronto’s Xola restaurant

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WATCH ABOVE: Global News continues to feature GTA small businesses working hard to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The owner and head chef of the Mexican restaurant Xola, located in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, shows Melanie Zettler why this tiny, casual spot is a community favourite. – Jul 2, 2020

Xola is a tiny, but mighty Mexican restaurant in the Beach neighbourhood of Toronto. At the start of Ontario’s COVID-19 lockdown, head chef and owner Mali Fernandez made the swift decision to try to stay in business by shifting to takeout.

“As an immigrant, we have a switch. We name it survival… we need to move our business to takeout business,” said Fernandez.

The day after businesses were ordered to close, Fernandez said she began to offer her traditional Mexican cuisine through takeout. She said it was quiet over the first few days of the lockdown, but then word of the takeout option seemed to spread.

READ MORE: How small businesses in the Greater Toronto Area are working to stay open

“Like, ring, ring! ‘We need takeout, we need takeout,'” said Fernandez.

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Fernandez, who was born and raised in Mexico, described her cuisine as authentic and traditional.

Unlike a more typical taco plate, corn tortillas here are served on the side of her duck confit atop pear and guajillo pepper sauce and her house favourite Pollo en Pipian — farm-raised chicken cooked with a pumpkin seed, tomatillo and jalapeno sauce.

Fernandez’s spouse, Francisco Zea, can often be found behind the bar shaking up the restaurant’s most popular drink — a traditional, fresh lime margarita complete with a dried grasshopper.

“If you don’t shake it hard, it doesn’t taste good,” said Zea.

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