Mexican cuisine rising


Lexington, KY – If you have been paying attention to the central Kentucky restaurant scene over the last several years, you can’t help but notice the growth of Mexican cuisine eateries and concepts. Depending on which search engine you use, if you conduct an Internet search for Mexican restaurant in Lexington, you will find anywhere between 50 and 70 Mexican restaurants. Granted, while some of these are national chains such as Taco Bell and Qdoba, most are independent restaurants.
Furthermore, even concepts that are not Mexican are increasingly adding Mexican items to their menu. A prime example is an item like fish tacos, which are found on many casual theme and fast-casual concepts. Another example is the prevalence of breakfast burritos on many menus. A good place to start exploring this trend is at the national level.
According to restaurant industry research groups such as Technomic, Mexican concept restaurant sales have been increasing for many years, and the rate of growth has been exceeding that of the industry overall. A key reason is that Mexican cuisine has been – and still is – positioned to take advantage of several factors.
American society is becoming more diverse, and one of the results is increasing interest in authentic ethnic dining experiences. Indeed, from 2000 to 2010, Fayette County has seen a 139 percent increase in Hispanic residents, with triple-digit growth for the segment seen in all of Fayette’s contiguous counties during the decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Additionally, the restaurant segments that have show the strongest growth in recent years are casual theme and fast casual. Mexican cuisine is well suited for both of these segments. Mexican food also taps into the consumer desire for more flavorful menu items. A related example is in grocery stores, where, in 1991 salsa sales began exceeding ketchup sales and have continued to grow during the 20 years since then.
On a local level, Lexington has been blessed with many fine Mexican dining options for years. The restaurant business has always been a hotbed for entrepreneurial activity and talent, and the Mexican restaurant segment exemplifies that. Prime examples of this are the three Mi PequeÒa Hacienda restaurants (www.mipequenahacienda.com) owned by local restaurateur Julian Giagos and his wife, Lorena. The two of them are a solid team with Julian Giagos primarily focusing on operations and his wife focusing on administrative functions. Other family members involved include two sons, a daughter and son-in-law, and nephews.
Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, Julian Giagos had a burning desire to work hard, own his own business and live the American dream. He decided that the restaurant business was the way to do this and opened his first Mi PequeÒa Hacienda at 3501 Lansdowne Drive in 1996, which is still there and thriving today.
In the past two years, he has been in growth mode. In 2010, he opened a Mi PequeÒa Hacienda Express restaurant in Tates Creek Centre, and this year, he opened a colorful new restaurant in Brannon’s Crossing. He succeeds because of his old-fashioned, successful restaurant owner values, such as great service, quality ingredients, great-tasting food and providing value to his customers. The menu is varied and reasonably priced and includes authentic fish tacos, their popular burrito carne asada and homemade soups.
In addition to these three restaurants, there are many other fine Mexican dining options in the Lexington area. Durango’s Mexican Restaurant on Richmond Road in the Idle Hour Shopping Center has been operating since 1994 and is owned and operated by Felicia Lucero. Another well-established local concept with a strong following is JalapeÒos Mexican Restaurant, with locations on West New Circle Road and South Broadway. Others include Abuelo’s at Fayette Mall; Rincon Mexicano on Euclid in Chevy Chase; Mi Mexico on East New Circle; Clamato’s on Versailles Road; El Toro Mexican Restaurant and Cantina on Nicholasville Road; and El Mariachi on Towne Center Drive. A relative newcomer to the scene is Sierra Fria, with two locations (on South Broadway and on Tiverton, at the old Corky’s BBQ location.) Two Tex-Mex eateries to recently open include Austin-based Chuy’s and Nashville-based The Local Taco. For a good, quick-service experience, the locally owned Taco Tico on Boardwalk is a good bet.
Many predict that the Mexican restaurant growth trend will continue. One reason is that the Latino culture will continue to integrate with American culture, resulting in Mexican food and flavors becoming more mainstream. This is similar to what happened with Italian food in America. Also, Mexican food is rooted in long-existing indigenous recipes created village by village, which means there are many menu items and flavors that are still undiscovered or commercialized. Another reason is more simple in that Mexican food is fun, tastes great and offers great value to the consumer. Thankfully, Lexington has several accomplished restaurateurs ready and able to provide just that.

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