El Tequila is the trumpeter’s Mexican restaurant | Local news

GILFORD – El Tequila, this town’s newest restaurant, dates back to one day in 1986, when a trumpeter walked into a restaurant in North Carolina.

That trumpeter was Felipe Cruz Sr., originally from Mexico City who was then part of a Mariachi band playing a circuit of Mexican restaurants throughout the American Southeast. This particular place in Kingston, NC had been one of the busiest restaurants they played at, but this time it was clear that things had changed. There were new owners and the tables weren’t filling up like they used to be.

“Being in the background, in the group, they could see that they had really messed up,” said Felipe Cruz Jr., who acts as the COO of El Tequila while his father searches for new recipes in the Mexican capital.

Cruz Sr., along with some of his band mates, ended up buying this Kingston restaurant and made it successful again. It marked the start of a restaurant career for Cruz Sr., who bought and sold, opened and closed dozens of restaurants in various parts of the eastern United States over the decades that followed. Lately he’s turned his attention to northern New England, where he sees an opportunity for his brand of authentic, home-made Mexicans paired with an expansive margarita menu.

Cruz Sr. currently operates restaurants in Augusta and Auburn, Maine. As an avid boater, he was drawn to his third trip in the Lake District. He found an opening in the plaza that currently houses Walmart, in a storefront that previously contained an Asian restaurant. The space attracts significant foot traffic from nearby businesses, but required a deeper-than-deep cleaning, Cruz Jr. said. “They totally emptied it.”

The cleanup required removing the ventilation system, all kitchen equipment, and ceiling tiles, but when completed, this allowed a hygienic canvas to create a suitable space for serving the foods that Cruz Sr. specializes in. For more than 20 years. This is the kind of food he served to guests in his home, his son said. “Everything is handmade and fresh every day,” said Cruz Jr., “We fry all of our fries, make our own salsa, all of our protein is marinated in their own marinade. “

And, of course, there are the cocktails. Cruz Sr. didn’t name his restaurant “El Tequila” for nothing. There are over 30 tequilas behind the bar and the margarita menu includes 25 different concoctions, all hand made to order.

“He loves tequila,” said Cruz Jr. Regarding the food, he said fajitas are a big seller and burritos are designed to satisfy even the most hungry of diners. For him, he becomes nostalgic and orders a supreme quesadilla. “I’m getting young again and eating in his restaurant,” he said.

Those who like the heat should ask for a side of habanero sauce, which uses avocado chunks to balance the chili floral punch.

El Tequila opened on New Years Eve and has already started making a name for itself, using a simple strategy that Cruz Sr. first learned decades ago as a mariachi. As his son described it, “It’s all about good food, great service. You will get good meal here, good drinks, relaxed atmosphere.

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