Cathie Anderson

Duo hope to open Sacramento’s Cantina Alley restaurant in mid-November

Restaurateurs Art Aguilar and Max Archuleta want diners to feel as close to Mexico as they can get when they walk into midtown’s Cantina Alley for street food inspired by the 31 states of the USA’s southern neighbor. The duo had hoped to open their restaurant in time to celebrate the Day of the Dead but say a mid-November debut is more likely.

“This concept has been brewing even before we met, internally, in both our heads,” Aguilar said, rubbing his stomach. “As you can see, we love to eat. Even before we met Max, my wife and I had talked about a restaurant. We love Mexican food. I was born in Mexico, and I lived back and forth as a kid because my parents were migrant farmers. We’re always on the lookout for great Mexican tacos and street food. For me, it’s always been about the street food.”

Don’t expect to have the typical Mexican plate with rice and beans or an appetizer of chips and salsa at Cantina Alley, 2320 Jazz Alley, said Archuleta and Aguilar. They’ll have a menu of staple street food such as tacos with fried pork belly, pambazo tortas made with red guajillo pepper sauce and quesadillas stuffed with squash flowers, but there will also be a separate menu with rotating fare from around the states or regions.

“When I grew up, my grandmother made the best food, but I’m sure everyone feels that way. Nobody can make it like your grandmother,” Archuleta said. “We’ll bring in someone’s grandmother or mother, as a guest chef … and we’ll put it out there for our customers.”

Like Sacramento, Mexico is also undergoing a craft brew renaissance, Archuleta said, so Cantina Alley will feature some cerveza from Mexican microbreweries. The restaurant also will be replete with artwork, more than 300 images, from Sacramento’s Ruben Briseño Reveles and from a Oaxacan artist. The restaurant’s giant wood doors and much of its interior woodwork are being fashioned by a Mexican craftsman.

Big man’s big goal

Without a hint of chagrin, 6-foot-6-inch Frenchman David Folch tells me that he was never a very good basketball player, but he was always chosen for teams because of his height.

These days, Folch is more likely to be found cruising the streets on a bicycle than playing a pickup game on an asphalt court, but that doesn’t mean cycling has been any easier. In fact, Folch and this columnist compared surgical scars from ankles fractured in cycling accidents.

He suffered his injuries, he said, because he was riding a bicycle too small for his frame and weight, one of several aha moments that precipitated a change of occupation.

Folch used to write freelance magazine articles about custom cars and motorcycles for foreign publications. Now he designs and produces a line of bicycles, manufactured by Rancho Cordova’s Ventana Mountain Bikes, for big and tall cyclists. Internet photos and video show retired NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal with the bicycle that Folch presented him as a gift.

“I crossed the country in a minivan with Shaq’s bike in the back, arrived in Atlanta where he was shooting advertising at the Turner studios,” Folch recalled. “I waited for him in a small room. All of a sudden the door opens and a massive guy ducks under the door.”

It was O’Neal. He grabbed the bike, hopped on it and flew back through the door and down the corridors of the studio before Folch could tell him that the oversized brakes are really, really powerful. Indeed, everything on Folch’s bikes is larger, sturdier and geometrically more proportionate to his riders’ size.

The Frenchman said his heart was in his throat as he waited for O’Neal’s return, but when the four-time NBA champ pedaled back to the door, he was sporting the broad smile of a child.

Folch’s bike brand is known as DirtySixer, not because he expects riders to go off-roading but because the bicycles have outsized 36-inch tires and the word “thirty” sounds a bit like “dirty” when said with Folch’s French accent. So far, he’s only sold 20 of his bikes, he said, but he’s hoping that an NBA player will want to partner with him to raise his bicycles’ profile and expand the tiny crack he’s made in the niche market.

The bicycles, he said, offer a way for players with knee, hip and back pain to still get in exercise. DirtySixer offers a single-speed cruiser, an 11-speed bicycle with Shimano hubs and a model with an electric assist priced from $4,500 to $6,000. That price tag can seem steep to customers unfamiliar with the costs of a small-production shop, Folch said, so he spends quite a bit of time educating potential buyers at events held by the National Basketball Retired Players Association.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee