• PLACE: Xochimilco Café
• LOCATION: 36 S. San Joaquin St., Stockton
• HOURS OF OPERATION: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight.
• INFORMATION: (209) 462-3784
Stockton — If you grew up in Stockton chances are you know of Xochimilco Café.
Even if you didn’t you may have heard of “Xochis,” as the locals call it.
This home-style Mexican restaurant has been a downtown landmark for over 50 years. For a good portion of that span – give or take 38 years – Manuel and Graciano Leyva have served as owners.
Unfortunately, Manuel, who took over the business from his older brother Salvador and a partner in 1972, passed away a few months ago. Prior to that, he could be seen at the corner booth closest to the kitchen on a regular basis.
Named after a canal district just outside Mexico City, Xochimilco has somewhat maintained the same look throughout the years. Inside, the eclectic décor has the same iconic painting of the U.S. Marines hoisting the flag on Iwo Jima and the other of couples boating along some Xochilimilcan waterway as recalled from my own youth.
Gone are the personal juke boxes along outside booths. Another sign of the changing time is the flat screen television thats not too far from the entrance way.
Parking near Xochimilco can sometimes present a problem, considering that this area of downtown is adjacent to the state and county buildings including the San Joaquin County Superior Court. Panhandlers, on top of that, are usually not too far away.
So why do people continue to come downtown Stockton to Xochimilco?
The answer here is quite simple: the food.
On most days, it’s not uncommon to see business professionals and other working stiffs seated next to families and other groups, large and small.
The servings on the lunch plates, for example – included is one entrée served with rice, refried beans and side salad – are often generous and very reasonably priced.
The homemade flour tortillas are arguably the best in town.
For what it’s worth, I’ll stand by the chili relleno lunch plate. This hearty dish has chunks of meat alongside the melted cheese inside the cook-to-perfection batter. I’d often polish off my plate by sopping what’s left with a floor tortilla.
Over the years, I would bring out-to-towners to Xochimilco. They’d come away impressed with the chicken or beef enchiladas, tacos, or quesadillas.
And let’s not forget about the complimentary tortilla chips and salsa that the server greeted you with shortly after being seated.
Consistency has been the key to Xochimilco’s success during the years.
It’s the same as always. But in this case that’s a compliment.
— Vince Rembulat
209 staff reporter