UPDATE: Many commentators are bringing up great points that deserve expansion and highlight...after the jump, of course!
Original post: I'm doing a review next week on...somewhere, and I asked around Weekly world headquarters for the names of Mexican restaurants similar to Mario's in Huntington Beach or Chronic Tacos: places not so much defined by its food but rather clientele. Where the music is loud, the people young, the ambiance relaxed, the customers familiar with what's on the menu but who would be lost at El Fortín or Chago's.
Someone suggested "white Mexican," but that wasn't good: gabachos, after all, have historically been the primary acolytes for Mexican food in this country. Someone thought "surfer-Mex" was what I was thinking about, but I nixed that as well: that category is already existing under Fresh-Mex.
It had aspects of Cal-Mex, Mexican-American, but definitely not Tex-Mex. New Mexican? Do people here still even know what that is?
Finally, someone said the magic words: Bro-Mex. Bro-Mex. GENIUS.
Bro-Mex is between fast-casual and sit-down, but is rougher than Chipotle and more casual than El Torito. It's better than fast-food, and serves a demographic that grew up on Mexican food in Southern California but moved beyond the hard-shell tacos of their parent's generation. The aesthetic of Bro-Mex restaurants centers around the world of energy drinks, surf culture, and MMA. Their clientele think lucha libre masks are hilarious, have Mexican-American friends or--if they're Mexican-American--don't speak much Spanish, and think Gringo Bandito is the greatest creation since Ed Hardy lighters. The question of authenticity doesn't register in the Bro-Mex universe--guac or sour cream is the existential question.
Bro-Mex is Mario's, Chronic Tacos, Pink Taco, Taco Surf, Don Jose's. Bro-Mex is not taco asylum, Malo, or other hipster places--hipsters would never be caught at Bro-Mex joints, not even as an ironic statement ala PBR. Wahoo's slips in as Bro-Mex, but Chipotle definitely isn't Bro-Mex (although Bro-Mex eaters will eat those burritos). Bro-Mex's birthplace is somewhere between Huntington Beach, San Diego, and Manhattan Beach, but we're more than happy to claim it as our own. The food isn't always abominable, but the crowd skews young--the only families here are young families. The center of the Bro-Mex world is HB, although it's also strong in the Inland Empire, San Diego, and Manhattan Beach--and its reach is growing. I don't think badly of Bro-Mex, but probably wouldn't patronize any of those places--just not my scene, you know? It is not an abomination, but rather something organic, something OC.
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I can go on, but I think ustedes can all tell a Bro-Mex restaurant when you see it. Now, let's all try to popularize it ala clustertruck and see how far it goes...
UPDATE: Broseidon below thinks Alberto's and its many clones qualify as Bro-Mex. I personally would classify it under Cal-Mex; however, those places and their California burritos are the preferred "authentic" Mexican restaurants of Bro-Mex lovers. Alerto's is their Kogi--and Bro-Mex fans would NEVER take part in the luxe lonchera craze.
MayhemintheHood, meanwhile, asks if the genre was created in "MexiBro." YES. The ancestors of Bro-Mex are places like Señor Frog's and Papas and Beer--these tourist traps were the ur-Bro-Mex. Keep the conversation flowing, people!