big President Bill Fuller, October 2018
This is the Silver Anniversary of Mad Mex. Twenty-five years ago, Mad Mex exploded on the scene. Our lineup of taps featuring delicious, flavorful beers from small breweries around the region showed our commitment to featuring beer that tastes better. The swirling, bubbling margarita machines perched on the backbar illustrated our belief that margaritas made with fresh juices and real tequila without artificial mixes would appeal to everyone. And our fundamental belief in freshly made, funky, not-really-very-Mexican-at-all-so-please-don’t-ask-for-refried-beans food clearly demonstrated that we were here to do a big new thing.
Funky Fresh Cal Mex!
It has been a long, great ride. Thank you everyone for making Mad Mex a part of your lives.
I often get asked about the secret to Mad Mex. Why do so many people like Mad Mex? What makes it continue to attract new customers while retaining current customers. My answer, the “short” answer, is that Mad Mex appeals to everyone. Kids, teens, young adults, young professionals, dating couples, young families, mature families. Everyone can feel comfortable at Mad Mex.
How do I know this? At this point, I have lived almost all those categories.
I first encountered Mad Mex as a young chef opening Kaya and Casbah in 1995. I’d get off work around midnight and, realizing I hadn’t really eaten a meal and in desperate need to decompress from my Crazy Raging Chef persona, I’d rush to Mad Mex Oakland for a burrito and a couple of Big Azz margaritas. I’d hang out there, socializing with other recently clocked-out big Burrito employees and other late-night hangers about, until the servers started to look at us like they wished we’d get out of there. So we would, and we’d get home and get a little rest before the next 14-hour day. It was a loud, cool spot to socialize late at night.
I met my wife at Casbah. I was the opening chef, she was a server/bartender. We tried to keep our relationship quiet, we never wanted anyone to think I would favor her, but we’d leave work and meet up at Mad Mex in Oakland. We wouldn’t go there together, that would send the wrong message, but we would end up sitting at a table of fellow employees. Funny thing, we kept ending up sitting together. I still remember sitting with a large group at the back round table and, when Mary arrived, finagling a seat next to her. Of course, nobody noticed. Right?
There is no better restaurant to take little kids than Mad Mex. There is so much going on – music, crazy art, crazy people, and general chaos – that NOBODY NOTICES YOUR KIDS SCREAMING! There are kids’ meals, or simple quesadillas if you need it, and margaritas for Mom and Dad to get over the tough day at Storybook Forest. Mad Mex was our restaurant of choice for the entirety of the span of our kids’ lives from babies through little kids into the teen years. Which leads us to…
My kids, 14 and 17, love Mad Mex. They love the boneless wings in all their various “Wingo” formats, carnitas tacos, cheese dip, salads, salsas and chips, guacamole, taquitos, Gobbleritos, and all the other burritos. They like to go there with us. They also like to go there with their friends. And, as with little kids, the teens feel camouflaged in the cacophony that is Mad Mex and relatively unobserved by the critical outside world.
Dining at Mad Mex with the teens is a great experience. They can work through the menu, order adult food, and engage us in good adult conversation. And when the conversation goes off the rails, and the delicate subjects of the mid-semester art class pending D or the looming college application deadlines arises, the general hustle and clatter of Mad Mex hides the rising screech of the angered teen. Or at least, we can convince ourselves of that. Until the server arrives while a teen is hissing with bulged, fiery eyes. Embarrassing.
I look forward to exploring the next 25 years of Mad Mex as we move into the next phase of our family’s life. I look forward to seeing my kids meet their friends when they come home from college. I imagine hanging out as Empty Nesters at Mad Mex and discussing our kids’ college and young professional lives. And I see the time when we might bring our kids with their crazed and wild grandkids about whom they are desperately anxious, and we know that nobody will really notice the chaos (even though the kids are pretty much just fine).
Here’s to 25 more!