Cali-Mex is a pretty well-known chain in Hong Kong and China, with 20 locations offering traditional — well, the Californian version of traditional — Mexican dishes like quesadillas and tacos as well as steaks, salads, and ribs for those in your party that are crazy enough to not love salsa, cheese, and beans.
They’ve recently launched their first outlet in Thailand on the ground floor of Sukhumvit Soi 22’s Holiday Inn, in a spot that used to be a pub.
Though this location is intimate, the company is far from finished with their Thailand openings. They are currently constructing a Silom location to open next month and a 150-seat flagship on nightlife street Sukhumvit Soi 11 in the space formerly occupied by Bed Supper Club, it should be open in December. They plan to open 20 outlets in three years in Thailand in places such as Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. Some of these will be more casual take-out taquerias.
We stopped by the try the tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and more at the fast-casual restaurant.
But before we get to the food, we have to start with the beer. Cali-Mex is offering Thailand’s first beer taps at the table. That’s right, grab a pint glass and ask them to start the flow to the ice-cold taps at your table. Choose from Asahi or Singha and, when the bill comes, you’ll be charged for how many milliliters you pour.
This is great for when the waitstaff is busy or you need to convince friends to have one more — just pour it for them. Who could say no? It’s also great for that friend who wants ‘just half a glass,’ you just keep refilling it when they aren’t looking. Also great for drinking heavily while the wife goes to the bathroom or while a disaster of a date goes outside to make a phone call. Not that we’ve thought about this at all.
They also have a full menu of margaritas and other Mexican-complementing cocktails like Paloma, Michelada, and Mojito, ranging in price from THB229-THB429. We tried The Cali Cadillac (THB429) featuring Patron Silver, Grand Marnier, fresh lime, and agave. It was one of the few margaritas we’ve ever had that wasn’t weighed down by lots of syrupy sour mix. It tasted, dare we say, light and refreshing.
And, tip for those that love a late night drink or meal: This place can serve booze until 2am since they are technically in a hotel.
Drinks are served with paper or bamboo straws, if you choose to take a straw at all. The restaurant prides itself on eschewing single-use plastics, using paper and aluminum for takeaway orders.
Featuring international ingredients like Australian beef, Mexican avocados, and local seafood, the restaurant offers several gluten-free and vegan options. In fact, the family-sized Venice Beach Vegan Nachos (THB599) were among our favorite dishes. The oversized portion is served in a hot cast iron skillet with soy chicken, non-dairy sour cream, plenty of jalapenos, and delicious vegan nut cheese from Barefood Bangkok.
Other apps included the Sizzling Garlic Chili Prawns (THB399) which came with what must have been an entire head of minced garlic. Not that we’re complaining. They hot dish of shrimp came with warm tortilla triangles to scoop up all the golden garlic goodness are not to be missed. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Camembert Bites (THB249) the large hunks of soft, rich cheese were warm and served breaded and deep-fried.
A Caesar Salad with Chicken (THB328) came out next, fresh and crispy in a homemade tortilla shell. The grilled chicken breast chopped into this salad makes up the base for many of their chicken dishes, it’s marinated with lime, coriander, and a bit of jalapeno, lending it a fresh Mexican flavor.
Surf and Turf (THB1,299) featuring a Canadian lobster tail and a 10-ounce ribeye steak came out next and our eyes bulged to learn that this was the small steak. The same set is available with a 14-ounce steak as well (THB1,699). Even the small one could almost feed two as a main course. One thing we can say about the portions at Cali-Mex, they are certainly American-style in size.
Half of an Angus Steak Quesadilla (THB449) was next, the large flour tortilla barely concealing large strips of steak and oozing cheese. Though this is what most places consider a normal quesadilla (a 12-inch tortilla filled and folded in half), Cali-Mex considers this a half-size and makes a full that is more like a stuffed pizza featuring two 12-inch tortillas on top of each other and stuffed, instead of being folded.
But, we weren’t done yet. Original Beef Tacos (THB399) in soft corn tortillas topped with lots of crispy lettuce and tomato appeared next as did a half-rack of BBQ Ribs (THB499) was still to come, covered in smoky barbecue sauce and served with a sprig of rosemary on top and a side of tangy coleslaw. The ribs were among the best we’ve seen in Bangkok and were soft enough to fall from the bone.
All in all, this casual Mexican eatery is great for beers, cocktails, a snack, or a meal. They serve breakfast too. The location is unbeatable — on Sukhumvit between Asoke and Phrom Phong — and they are open until 2am. We’ll definitely be in again.
Cali-Mex Bar & Grill
Holiday Inn, ground level
22 Sukhumvit Rd.
Open daily from 10am-2am