New port: Mexican restaurant seeks downtown harbor

A popular Mexican eatery in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center, El Puerto's, is opening a new location on the Downtown Mall, replacing Reflections salon. 

El Puerto, which means "the port," is a town in Mexico where the restaurant chain's founder was born, and now lends its name to this Central Virginia chain of cantinas, the first of which was opened in Blacksburg.  Pablo Abalos-Lopez, a cousin of the founder, split from the family chain in 2000 when he opened the Meadowbrook Shopping Center El Puerto's.

"I kept the name," says Abalos-Lopez, but noted that he added the possessive case.

Ever-innovative, Abalos-Lopez keeps trying different locations. For a time there was an El Puerto's in Woodbrook Shopping Center, but he closed that one due to the rate of turnover among the restaurants and businesses in that area.

The new restaurant will be located at 225 West Main, a building long occupied by Reflections salon, which is moving to Market Street. Between now and November, Abalos-Lopez plans to turn the nearly 3,000 square foot storefront into a restaurant, adding a kitchen, restrooms, and a dining room.

"We have to do everything," he says. And that includes outdoor dining, always a plus for Downtown dining denizens.

However, The Downtown Mall already has other south-of-the-border fare in the form of Mono Loco, Cinema Taco, and the nearby Guadalajara.

"I'm not afraid," says Abalos-Lopez. "I think my food is different."

Abalos-Lopez does not plan to make any changes to El Puerto's menu, which he says is distinguished from other Mexican restaurants by the secret flavors used by the chef, his brother Sergio.

"He never told me," says Pablo Abalos-Lopez of the mystery ingredients.

When he opens, he'll be on a restaurant row with neighboring heavy-hitters the Whiskey Jar and Brookville. We're pretty sure El Puerto's will be the only one serving a Speedy Gonzalez lunch special.

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Because we certainly don't have enough Mexican restaurants in Cville already.

Guad has a speedy Gonzales special.

You can never have too many Mexican restaurants.

Will they be vacating Clara Belle Wheeler's ghost town of a shopping center?

Well Informed--just so you will be, no, the DTM is a second location.


Food is the new vacation

tako nako truck!

Might Horse you just might be on the menu.

So sad we'll have to do without boooo's frequent shrieking in the near future. Our loss if Florida's gain!

One thing we can all agree on is that some folks belong in Florida.

This is great news. El Puerto is the best Mexican restaurant in town. I look forward to them having another location.

Thanks Chocolate. I like the El Puertos in Staunton as they have a lunch time food bar. Their new Waynesboro location is great also.

Well Informed--I meant the second location in Cville. Glad to know about the other El Puertos. Now I am well informed!