In 2011, Frank Mendoza was an air-conditioning technician with no restaurant experience when he went against the advice of friends and family and transformed his part-time Mexican sushi cart into the brick-and-mortar El Sushi Loco in a La Puente strip mall. A self-made success story, his third location opens on Monday, Dec. 3.
After being introduced by nephew Jose Calderon to Mexican sushi — which unlike the raw Japanese version is deep-fried — Mendoza started pushing his unpermitted Sushi Island cart, which he bought on Craigslist in Tijuana for $1,200, through the streets of East L.A.
What started out as a fun hobby on the side of his air-conditioning day job became a passion for Mendoza and Calderon. By 2014 they'd opened a second restaurant in Downey and now comes a third location in Pomona.
There will be the signature hot reggae rolls of fried tempura on top of scallops and crab, smothered in Jamaican cilantro and spicy Kanikama sauces. For the grand opening, guests will be treated to the Emperador, cream cheese, avocado and shrimp covered with spicy Kanikama, home-made sweet eel sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro sauce on the side, as well as oyster shots, dragon rolls, ceviche de mango and Yaki Loco.
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Monday’s celebration will benefit the Angel Tree organization with a holiday toy drive to help bring cheer to children with incarcerated parents. Angel Tree has special meaning to the married father of two.
Before turning his life around, Mendoza spent nine years for drug trafficking at the Lompoc U.S. Penitentiary, where he learned about the Angel Tree organization. As a former inmate himself, the reformed Mexican sushi pioneer understands that children of incarcerated parents are especially at risk of being forgotten during Christmas.
El Sushi Loco, 1542 W. Holt Ave., Pomona; (909) 469-0568, elsushiloco.com.