MESA, AZ — After ultimately closing in 2017, El Charro Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge will reopen Wednesday, May 5, at its homestead on the corner of First Street and Country Club Drive in Mesa.
"We're back," said Eva Munoz Otra, the daughter of Freddie Munoz, who opened the Country Club location in 1958 (the family recipes date back to the 1920s, Eva said). Freddie died in 2012 and Munoz's sister, Janet, took over the restaurant, but closed it in 2017 due to health concerns and other issues, she said.
"It's been too long, it really has," said Eva, who began working at the restaurant as a "bus girl" when she was 13. She eventually left to become a teacher and recently retired.
She and her husband, along with some friends and contractors, have been working the last several months to clean and dust the building, bring it up to code, and give some areas a refresh while maintaining the charm and character of the last 50 years.
They installed new flooring in the bar and dining room, which were ruined after a flood, added some new decorations, and painted some walls a bit lighter. The vintage signs advertising beer brands remain on the walls, whiskey bottles line the bar, some of the tables have scratches and dents that have likely been there for years, and an old jukebox has been restored and features the likes of Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and George Strait.
"I want them to feel like they're back home, I want them to feel comfortable like they did," she said.
For the first month, El Charro, will open for takeout orders only. A takeout window has been installed near the front entrance to the restaurant dining room. They'll accept orders at 10:30 a.m. and plan to open at 11 a.m.
They will have a small menu to start focusing on their most popular items, such as the green chili burros, cheese tortillas, burros, tacos, rice, coleslaw, beans, and macaroni salad.
Their tortillas are made fresh in the kitchen, something she believes makes their food stand out. As for the rest of the menu, she said they've made very few changes.
She hopes to open the dining room soon, but it wasn't clear when that would happen.
According to an old newspaper clipping, Eva's grandfather, Florentino Munoz, moved from Texas to Mesa, Arizona where he opened The Little Palace Cafe, the apparent start of the family's restaurant business.
That evolved into El Charro, followed by another restaurant, a smaller version called "El Charrito," in downtown Mesa, recalled Eva. Then in 1957, Freddie Munoz, Eva's father, demolished his family home and built El Charro as it stands today.
Before, El Charro would traditionally close for a couple of months over the summer to give the family and staff a break. Eva said she might close for a week or two, but those details were still being hashed out.
"It's like going home to moms, you know? They're back, we're back and we're going to get pampered again. And we're going to have our old favorites again," Eva said. "And it's really exciting because I'll be able to have my old favorites too."
IF YOU GO:
105 N Country Club Dr, Mesa, AZ 85201