Somewhere among the broad avenues, souvenir vendors, and art galleries of Mexico City’s colonia San Rafael is the sparkling-clean kitchen of Los Loosers, Mexico City’s only delivery-by-bike vegan lunch service. Launched by long time friends Ysus Pallares and Mariana Blanco in 2011, it has grown from a two-person-and-one-pizza-oven operation into a thriving small business that delivers up to 130 homemade, soy-free orders a day. They’ve catered to such high-profile clients as Mercedes Benz and American Apparel. But their delivery zone is an entire city several times the size of Manhattan.
Further googling revealed extensive coverage in Spanish language publications and hundreds of tweets and “likes” from satisfied customers, many of whom appeared in photos making the “L” sign with their fingers in a vaguely cult-like salute.
Just one of many voluntary precautions they take to keep the kitchen free of contaminants is to switch shoes upon arrival to their kitchen in the morning. Pictures of human and animal rights activists festoon their walls and soundtracks are familiar: Pulp, The Pixies, Duran Duran, and The Bangles.
Mariana relates that she first met Ysus —a graphic designer and bike repairer at the time—in her former life as a journalist when she did a story on his bike group. The two bonded over a commitment to ethical veganism but were frustrated at their city’s lack of dining options. (A vegan won’t go hungry in D.F., but it’s nearly impossible to find a restaurant completely free of animal products; and if you’re also avoiding soy, forget about it.) She used to write for newspapers, but in the end, she felt that she wasn’t changing anything – so the two friends decided to quit our jobs and do something.
Like stateside kindred spirits Terry Romero and Isa Moskowitz of Post Punk Kitchen, they figured that the best way to advocate for animals was to make vegan food more accessible and appealing to Mexico City residents. Ysus was an accomplished baker and Mariana had cooking skills passed down from her Oaxacan grandmother. Armed with just $357, their bikes, and a dream, the two friends got to work, rising with the sun each morning to prepare the day’s sandwiches and desserts to be delivered by the end of lunchtime. The orders began pouring in via Facebook and Twitter DMs. Four years later, Los Loosers employ and provide health insurance to two cooks, Ana and Jorge, and three delivery guys: Ysus, Julián, and Pepe. They’ve cooked for everyone from Spanish pop star Enrique Bomburi and American Black Panther Emory Douglas to newspaper employees and crust punks. Bike messengers from all over the world come and work for them while they’re in Mexico City. They created something from nothing.
As for the name itself, Mariana re-appropriated it from a former friend who once made fun of her because she ate and travelled differently from the majority. One night, in front of all her friends, he said, ‘Why you are not like us? Like, normal? You ride your bike, you eat grass.’ So in Spanish, he said, ‘Tu eres una perdedora.’ ‘You are a loser.’ Mariana replied, ‘If I am a loser because I’m not like you, I’m proud to be a loser.’ So many years after that, she came up with the name. It’s Los Loosers. Double O is because of the wheels of their bikes.