Meet Tiara Darnell, The US Woman Who Owns Mexico City’s Only Soul Food Restaurant

Tiara Darnell, a Mitchellville native, owns Mexico City’s sole soul food restaurant. Darnell was inspired to make Blaxicocina after missing the flavors of her hometown in Maryland while living in Mexico City, according to DCist.

According to Darnell, it was difficult to find Old Bay seasoning in Mexico City. So, when her mother was set to visit her a few months ago, Darnell politely suggested that she bring “whatever you can.” Darnell’s mother, on the other hand, brought “gigantic things” of the premium Old Bay seasoning that can only be bought at places like Restaurant Depot.

Fortunately, that was all Darnell needed to open Blaxicocina, Mexico City’s only soul food restaurant, where she serves her distinctive Old Bay-seasoned French fries as well as other family favorites like carrot cake and sweet tea, fried chicken, and cornbread.

“I’ve never owned a restaurant before, so this is all very new,” she remarked. “Old Bay has to come and play a part in this dream as well.”

Darnell and her team have been serving classic soul cuisine in Mexico City’s Narvarte area for the past six months. She does it all with recipes passed down from her parents, who are from Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

The entrepreneur shared, “Things like that are foundational to soul food as we Black Americans know it. Pretty much every recipe that’s on the menu. These are all things that I made with my mom.”

Darnell stated that her one issue in Mexico is acquiring real ingredients. For example, when she and her team first opened their doors, they learned that there are distinct differences in how corn is used in Mexican and American cuisines. She added that she couldn’t buy conventional cornmeal or grits because the bulk of corn in Mexico is nixtamalized, which is used to produce tortillas.

“There’s a lot of stuff where we’ve had to take a step back and start from the beginning to achieve the dish that we want because those ingredients, as I know them in the U.S., are not here,” she said.

Meanwhile, she has begun working directly with friends and neighbors to obtain supplies, with the exception of Old Bay seasoning. In the months following its initial opening, Black Americans seeking a taste of home and residents of Mexico City (Chilangos) accepted and liked Darnell’s food.

More than just cuisine, the restaurant is now the center of a flourishing community of Black Americans who have relocated to Mexico City from the United States under the guise of “Blaxit” to escape prejudice and to find a better quality of life with lower living expenses. According to the US State Department, Mexico is the most popular international destination for Americans. There are about 1.5 million US citizens living in Mexico.

Blaxicocina was described as a “classic” immigrant business with strong ties to being Black and physically in Mexico by Mexico News Daily.

Darnell’s previous business pursuits included wine and goat milk products, according to the site. Blaxicocina began last year with culinary workshops in her flat, but she decided to expand once she could accommodate 70 people at once.

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