The founders of the South Bay’s first craft beer bar have launched their long-awaited second project, a modern take on a Mexican cantina, in downtown Chula Vista. Eddie Trejo and Joann Cornejo, who opened National City’s acclaimed Machete Beer House in 2015, are behind La Nacional, a restaurant and bar that recently landed on a bustling stretch of Third Avenue.
Centered around cocktails curated by bartender Felipe “Pipo” Lopez, whose list includes a daiquiri spiked with Mexican rum and banana liqueur, a mezcal Negroni, and an agave-sweetened old fashioned variation with Mexican whisky, the bar is family-friendly until 8 p.m. A weekday happy hour, which runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., features specials on drinks including select tequilas and mezcals.
In the kitchen is chef Alvaro Hernandez of local pop-up Birrieria Don Alvaro, whose birria is showcased at La Nacional’s brunch, served Thursday through Sunday. The fall-apart meat features in a quesataco or birra bowl with consomme, and can be optionally topped with braised tendon.
The chef’s popular Sonora-style ribeye taco is one of the highlights on the main dinner menu, which also includes housemade chicharron and guacamole, chicken flautas, and sopita, a comforting tomato-based noodle soup, as well as late-night snacks like Tijuana hot dogs.
Cornejo tells Eater that she and Trejo would like to open other businesses down the line, including a stand-alone spot for Machete Coffee, a cafecito at Machete Beer House that the couple launched during the pandemic and shuttered earlier this year.