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Take a sip of El Chapo’s sweet and simple horchata at U.P. Town Center.
In a country that’s always eager to try out the latest trends in food and drink, becoming a mainstay on the Filipino palette is tough. But if you think about it, the key to a delectable trend hitting critical mass is in its foundation of simple ingredients.
Like milk tea and frozen yogurt, the Mexican drink horchata (with a silent H!) is made with a simple recipe of flavors that allows it to serve as a foundation to cater to a plethora of tastes.
Made with rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, horchata has been around for centuries, but remains to be an underrated treat in the Philippines. In one of the many corners of U.P. Town Center is a simple cart that might just change that: El Chapo’s.
Established in 2016, El Chapo’s was built on the belief that good (read: delectable and highly addictive) things need not make you feel guilty. “Don’t worry ese, it’s legal,” its slogan goes.
After a few hops around the area, El Chapo’s settled down along Esteban Abada street in Quezon City, and soon after brought their horchata cart to U.P. Town Center. “We wanted our horchata to be more accessible to people,” say Rem and Jim.
Here, we chat with the El Chapo team and talk about what makes a great horchata and ask for some tips on how you can turn your horchata into a turnt horchata.
Tell us about how El Chapo’s began.
El Chapo’s all started inside a food park back in 2016, [where] we were given a choice [to] offer burgers or Mexican food. We took the risk by choosing the latter.
From our food cartel’s name, you would suspect where our branding is rooted from. It might seem unusual but we adapted it into a food concept with the slogan “Don’t worry ese, it’s legal.”
It hinges on the idea that most addictive things in life are sinful… [but] we believe that people don’t have to feel guilty about having something good and addictive [from] our food menu.
And then as the food park industry started closing, El Chapo’s decided to relocate and establish a standalone branch in Esteban Abada. Before the horchata cart, we also had a restaurant bar type where we held night gigs.
We wanted our horchata drink to be more accessible to people. This paved the way to creating our horchata cart at U.P. Town Center — we decided to come up with this business model to be able to cater to malls with our simple cart set-up.
For those who have yet to try it, how would you describe El Chapo’s horchata? What makes a great horchata?
Horchata is just a simple Mexican drink. We really don’t know what makes a great horchata — if you think about it, there’s nothing fancy about it. But its sweet taste from rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon make a great combination. It’s the simple ingredients that make it great.
Apart from the regular horchata, El Chapo’s also offers a “dirty” version with coffee. What coffee do you use?
The coffee we use in our dirty horchata is Go Brew PH’s Barako. We partnered up with Go Brew PH because their coffee is sourced locally, which supports local coffee farmers.
We like to collaborate with brands that are aligned with our vision and also take care of their brand.
You guys also offer the horchata in a four liter party size. What’s your favorite way of enjoying it at home or elsewhere?
The horchata 420 Party Size in 4L originated from the six liter mineral water bottle which we used to sell, as an initiative to help our employees [when] we stopped our operations [for] around two months at the start of lockdown in 2020.
As we started to bounce back and operate again, we continued and shifted to a better looking container that serves four liters of horchata, meant to be shared at home.
If you want horchata with an alcoholic touch, our personal favorite is horchata with Malibu Rhum!
Do you have any favorites from your food menu? What would you recommend?
Our personal favorite is the chicharitos tacos of course. It has been there since Day 1 and it has been a classic choice for our customers.
Other personal favorites are special dishes we made: tuna ceviche toastada and birria tacos. Hope you guys will try them out!
What has it been like operating during the pandemic?
It [was] really difficult at the beginning as we were forced to shut down. With the same vision, we changed our strategy and pivoted the business by shifted our efforts towards online exposure and digital marketing.
During the lockdown, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to re-evaluate and improve our menu so that when it was time to reopen, we were better equipped and more confident with the food we serve our customers.
El Chapo’s also launched its own hot sauce last November. What’s next for El Chapo’s in 2021 and beyond?
El Chapo’s is a brand that produces different products not only limited to food. As long as it’s aligned with our brand, it’s definitely something we will consider. Our hot sauce is only the beginning — we are eyeing to start producing merchandise that reflect our brand.
There’s still a lot of uncertainties this 2021, [but] we are looking forward to expanding our brand to different areas in the metro. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for everyone and for the brand.