Kenyon students will soon no longer need to hop on the shuttle to find the flavors of their favorite Mount Vernon Mexican restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana.
In late August, the College’s Office of Communications released a statement announcing the arrival of a new eatery in Gambier: Chilitos Fresh Mex and Margaritas, run by Fiesta’s owners. The restaurant will open in the fall of 2018, an addition that promises to spice up Gambier’s business offerings. It will be located on the renovated ground floor of Farr Hall.
Kenyon students have commuted to Mount Vernon since 1997 to frequent Fiesta Mexicana’s two locations. Beloved for its bright and lively atmosphere and signature margaritas, this restaurant has served as a celebratory spot for generations of college students. The family that owns Fiesta Mexicana intends to introduce Gambier to the fresh ingredients and recipes found at Fiesta.
José Avalos, the owner of Fiesta Mexicana, brings thirty years of restaurant experience to his new project. In addition to the two Fiestas in Mount Vernon, he and his family currently own and operate four other restaurants throughout Ohio — though in the past, they’ve operated up to 18.
Avalos started the Chilitos Fresh Mex and Margaritas venture in Columbus in 2015. Unlike Fiesta Mexicana’s tables, wait-staff and six-page menu, this fast-casual restaurant allows customers to create quick meals using a limited but customizable menu. Diners will place their order at the counter and decide if they want to eat their meal in the restaurant or take it to go.
Avalos plans to bring this same design to Gambier. Patrons can select a burrito, quesadilla, chimichanga, taco or other base that they will customize with their preferred fillings. The menu will also have American items, like hamburgers and chicken wings. The quick turnaround will allow people to grab lunch or dinner and take it back to their dorm or library. If they would rather dine in, the tables and full-service bar will accommodate between 80 to 90 people at a time according to Avalos.
Specifics regarding Chilitos’s operation are still uncertain. Although Avalos has already made plans to keep the restaurant open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. on weekdays, he’s curious to see how Chilitos could enrich late-night food and drink options during the weekends — especially after Peirce Pub’s scheduled closure in the spring of 2018.
“People already know what to expect in us for tastes, food [and] drinks,” Avalos said. He hopes students will come to him with feedback about Chilitos. “We’re willing to work with the kids of the College to see what they want, and then see what we can put in there.”
Avalos is committed to working closely with the community and College to satisfy what both think Gambier needs. Avalos said, “We’re open to anything that works out for the College.”