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.Read more on: el puerto's