After a five-month hiatus, Chilitos Fresh Mex has made its long-awaited return to Gambier, reopening Wednesday night in a limited capacity.
Chilitos reopened with a condensed menu, serving chicken tenders and fries, and chips with queso or guacamole, as well as ice cream and filled churros. The bar, however, was fully operational on Wednesday night, with students already frequenting the seats at the counter. The restaurant’s staff members said they are hoping to resume offering their full menu on Friday, but were unclear as to whether they will have the capability to do so.
The Mexican restaurant has been closed since May and delayed its scheduled reopening at the start of the academic year due to staffing shortages. In September, owner Jose Avalos sent out a message via the restaurant’s Facebook page, stating that Chilitos was looking for employees in all positions, and that those interested in applying should reach out to him directly.
Chilitos prefers to hire workers from outside the Kenyon community, especially those who are immigrants of Latinx descent. Former Chilitos employee Leesbeth Claros ’22 noted that this component of Chilitos is crucial to its cultivation of a family-oriented atmosphere, which resonates with many Latinx students.
Ian Smith, vice president for facilities, planning and sustainability, told the Collegian that Kenyon had been in communication with Avalos to encourage him to reopen as soon as possible. However, there was not much the College could do to help the restaurant due to the national reshuffling of the labor market. Chilitos is one of many Gambier businesses currently dealing with staffing struggles, but was the only business to remain closed for an extended period of time.
Students will likely be excited to return to the restaurant, as it offers a unique food option in the Village and has been a popular spot, particularly on weekend nights. Chilitos was open until 9 p.m. on Wednesday, though its daily hours going forward have yet to be determined.