New Mexican restaurant to open west of Charlotte in former Picante spot

A new Mexican restaurant themed around 1980s Mexico’s “Gossip Girl” era is opening west of Charlotte, where Picante used to be.

That Fresa, by the same owners of Que Onda, will offer “preppy tacos” and “ritas,” according to owner Manuel Flores.

Why is this important: Picante was a West Charlotte staple for over a decade – a rarity in one of Charlotte’s most changing neighborhoods.

  • “We couldn’t have done this without our amazing employees and great customers,” Anthony, Owner of Picante deresh and manager Lisa Mack wrote in the restaurant final Instagram post.
  • Flores tells me that Deresh and Mack reached out to him about taking over the space with the stipulation that he retain the staff, who Flores says now works primarily at Que Onda restaurants around Charlotte. “Most of them have been with Picante for over six years,” Flores said.

Past: “Fresa” means strawberry in Spanish, but it’s also Mexican slang for a preppy person.

  • It’s a term that was popularized in Mexico in the 1980s, Flores explains, when Mexico began to prosper financially and parents began sending their children to private schools and bilingual schools. Students began to learn English, watch American television, dress and act a certain way. “Like playing golf or the Kentucky Derby,” Flores said.
  • Flores said he didn’t know the exact origin of the term, but it was derived from the character Strawberry Shortcake, who was also very popular at the time. “People started calling them ‘fresitas’,” he said.
  • Flores’ wife, Paola, grew up in Mexico in the 80’s. I asked Flores if she was fresa, he said “great time! This is where the inspiration came from.

Yes, but: “Preppy” doesn’t mean expensive, according to Flores. The majority of taco prices will be between $3.95 and $4.95.

  • “We always want to be affordable,” Flores told me.

The food: There will be 15-20 signature tacos on the menu, as well as sharing plates, sandwiches, wraps and desserts.

  • Flores also said they will continue the daily Picante food and drink specials that have made the place so popular and affordable — yes, that means Taco Tuesday is here to stay.
  • He wants to maintain quality and affordability. “Our menu is going to be more culinary forward-thinking, Flores told me, “there will be really top-notch toppings.”

The drinks: The full-service bar will serve beer and spirits, with a primary focus on margaritas.

  • Flores said they’ll be playing around with fun margarita flavors like blueberry prickly pear and jalapeño orange and have a soft dairy-free margarita.
  • “Like the soft-serve you see at Chick-fil-a or McDonald’s,” Flores said.

Details: Similar to Picante, Que Fresa will have indoor and outdoor seating that can accommodate approximately 80-90 people. Its main draw will be the fast and casual take-out menu that Picante was popular for.

  • local artist valentine Ramirez will paint a mural and possibly sculptures for the restaurant.
  • To note : There will be a piece of Picante on permanent display at Que Fresa, signage of the iconic lips holding a chili pepper. Flores says paying homage to the restaurant that preceded it is a tradition at all of his restaurants.

And after: Flores hopes to open by the Carolina Panthers preseason, but that depends on how quickly he can get permits approved.

  • Next, he hopes to work with entrepreneur and business partner Roger Lemus to open other locations near and around Charlotte “Ballantyne, Belmont, Fort Mill, Rock Hill, Kannapolis, Harrisburg” are all options, according to Flores .

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