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Calexico to Replace Blue Ribbon Sushi on Fifth Avenue

A “bitter-sweet” story of a Park Slope staple closing to be replaced by a mini-chain restaurant that started as a food cart.

on Fifth Avenue has closed. It’s an unavoidable fact that the poor economic atmosphere will continue to take victims, but the 1,876 square-foot space (next to Blue Ribbon, which is still open) will soon be filled with Cal-Mex food, featuring tacos, burritos and tortas made by no other than Calexico.

Calexico, owned by brothers David, Brian and Jesse Vendley and partner Peter Oleyer, have two food carts, one in SoHo and the other in Worth Square in Manhattan, and a taqueria in Red Hook and a restaurant in Greenpoint. They will also open another one in Brooklyn Bridge Park soon. The team just signed the lease for the space between Garfield Place and First Street last week and Oleyer says their goal is to open in four months.

On Wednesday, Calexico, whose carts have won a couple of Vendy awards, will start the liquor license application— the first step being to present their plans for their restaurant, which will have a full bar serving beer, wine and margaritas, to Community Board 6.

Their menu is based on Californian-Mexican cuisine, specializing in tacos, burritos, tortas, quesadillas and enchiladas. Being in Park Slope, they will also have a kids’ menu. More details will emerge once they get closer to their grand opening.

Oleyer said that the idea for the kids’ menu was not only because Park Slope is full of families, but also because many of them, who are all in their 30’s and one is 45 years old, have their own children.

“So many of us have kids, so our priorities have changed,” Oleyer said. “When we first started, we wanted to have a rock-and-roll vibe, but as we got older we wanted to create a rock-and-roll vibe that also caters to kids.”

Fifth Avenue has been a dream location for Calexico, but now it has become very much a reality.

“Park Slope has been on our radar for a long time, Fifth Avenue is turning into one of Brooklyn’s great restaurant rows,” Oleyer said. “We have, out of necessity, picked other neighborhoods and would never have been able to open in Park Slope a couple of years ago.”

He continued:

“For us, our business growth has been all about baby steps and we finally made it,” Oleyer said.

Calexico first started with one food cart on the corner of Prince and Wooster streets in Manhattan in 2006. Soon after, they launched a second cart near Madison Square Park, based on the profits from the first one and eventually opened their taqueria in Red Hook on Union Street and a restaurant in Greenpoint on Manhattan Avenue.

“We kept turning around profits and reinvested it into our business. Now, we found ourselves in a position where we could afford Park Slope and a unique and gorgeous space opened on Fifth Avenue,” Oleyer said. “The stars were aligned perfectly.”

But, it’s not all good news. Oleyer, who lives in Park Slope, said the fact that Blue Ribbon Sushi closed, to be replaced by Calexico, has made him feel two conflicting sentiments.

“It’s bitter-sweet. Without exaggerating, Blue Ribbon Sushi was my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn. My wife and I would go there for every special occasion,” Oleyer said. “We were regulars for the last seven years.”

When the Calexico partners got wind of the space being available, they hopped on it. And Oleyer said that they will take the opportunity to bring a great restaurant to the neighborhood and fill the space with love, a local vibe and good food.

“I felt a lot less bad once I realized we were going to replace them,” he said. “But they will be missed.”

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