Mi Mexico, which opened June 9, is decorated in bright colors with traditional “papel picado” banners hanging from the ceiling.
It’s designed to look and taste like an authentic restaurant in Mexico. While there is no shortage of Mexican restaurants in the Cortez area, Espinoza said his menu features food unique to his home state of Jalisco and the surrounding area.
“We decided to do it like this ... so that the style will go with the name of the restaurant,” he said. “It’s ‘Mi Mexico,’ so it feels like Mexico.”
The medium-priced restaurant serves plenty of familiar dishes like burritos and tostadas, but it also has some menu items that might not be as common in Montezuma County, like Culichi-style seafood, which comes from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Most of the menu is made up of original recipes created by Espinoza or handed down to him by his mother.
“(I love) to cook, and I’ve been doing this for the last 18 years,” Espinoza said.
The chef moved to the United States from Mexico when he was 15, and he’s been working in the food industry ever since. He moved to Cortez about five years ago, and was manager at La Casita after its move to a larger location on East Main Street, where he developed his popular chile rellenos recipe. He said he left that business in the hope of creating something new and different, a restaurant of his own that may someday become a chain.
Eventually, he said, he hopes to expand to Durango.
For now, though, Espinoza said he’s focused on building a good reputation among Cortez residents. He said customers have given him positive feedback, especially about the Burrito Loco, which he said is the most popular dish on the menu.
On Wednesday, customers were already starting to trickle in when the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. Although business was good for the restaurant’s first week, Espinoza said he still has a few things to fix, like installing full curtains in the windows to keep out the afternoon sun, and hiring more wait staff, before he starts advertising in earnest.
Mi Mexico is located at 550 S. Broadway, in the building that used to house Beny’s Diner. It includes a family dining area, a bar and a private room that can be reserved for parties and other events.
This article was reposted on June 19, 2017, to clarify that Dionicio Espinoza was manager at La Casita after the restaurant’s move to a larger site on East Main Street.