The key word is “official.”
Officially, Mexico Lindo opens at Fitger’s Brewery Complex on Thursday in the space formerly occupied by Baja Billy’s and Chi-Chi’s. So the site’s quarter-century tradition of Mexican food continues.
“Thursday I’ll be ready,” said co-owner Pedro Aranda as he worked in the kitchen Tuesday afternoon, showing cooks the ropes.
Manager Jose Hernandez had been less committal about the official opening, at one point Tuesday, saying the restaurant would open Monday.
“We don’t want to be overwhelmed, “ he explained. “We want to make sure people aren’t upset.”
He has reason to fret. Duluthians are known for descending in droves on new destination restaurants like Mexico Lindo as soon as the doors are open. And that’s a lot for a new restaurant staff to handle.
Aranda and business partner, Felipe Mata. have operated Mexico Lindo in Cloquet for about five years. Successful there, they were looking to expand to Duluth when the space opened up in Fitger’s Brewery Complex.
Despite the official Thursday opening, a handful of people who wandered in Tuesday afternoon were being served in the leisurely, "soft opening" Hernandez wanted.
“I absolutely like the food,” said Larry Fagan of Duluth as sat in a booth, happily working on his order of chicken fajitas.
For years, he’s traveled to Cloquet about once a week to eat authentic Mexican food at the other Mexico Lindo restaurant. Now he doesn’t have to go that far.
“The other place is too busy,” Fagan said, adding that it’s hard to get a table there.
Leo Zuniga, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, thought the restaurant was already open when he walked in about 12:30 p.m., 15 minutes after the first patron was seated.
“I had heard rumors they were coming here,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to be here.”
Soon Zuniga was sitting at the bar having a Dos Equis Mexican lager with chips and ranchero salsa.
“Wow,” he said, confirming its authenticity. “I makes me feel I’m in Mexico on the border with my mother.”
The 8,600-square-foot restaurant overlooking Lake Superior on Fitger’s second floor has been remodeled and painted in black, terra-cotta and Robin’s egg blue. it has new custom-made seating, three-dimensional metal art on the walls and seven big screen TVs. It offers a full menu with average lunches costing $5.25 to $7.95 and dinners, $9 to $13.