Five new Mexican restaurants won’t be ready for Cinco de Mayo this week but they are coming soon to Southwest Florida.
El Nido is targeted to open Monday at Coconut Point in Estero, Uncle Julio’s is shooting to kick off this summer at Coastland Center mall in Naples, and 1942 Mexican Grill plans to launch this year off U.S. 41 in North Naples. These are all new dining concepts in the region.
Tacos & Tequila Cantina also intends to open its fourth area location before the end of this month at The Pointe at Founders Square on the southeast corner of Collier Boulevard and Immokalee Road. The new location was targeted to open for Cinco de Mayo festivities this week, but its buildout couldn’t be completed in time. T&T, one of the Hoffmann Family of Companies, also has locations in East Naples, North Naples and Estero.
El Local, which launched as a local food truck in 2017, plans to bring its Mexican street food to The Causeway, opening soon on Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs. The food truck already makes frequent stops there in the parking lot but El Local will have a permanent space inside the food hall when it opens. Earlier this year, El Local launched its first brick-and-mortar spot on U.S. 41 in San Carlos Park. Alan Romero and his wife, Neiva, use the same family recipes for al pastor and carne asada tacos that Romero’s parents, grandparents and other family members have been serving for 30 years at the popular Maria’s Restaurant, also on Old 41 in Bonita.
El Nido, a modern Mexican restaurant owned and operated by local restaurateurs Joe and Donna Sofia, will have a menu that blends Latin American cuisine, classic Mexican fare, top-shelf tequila and single-origin Latin American coffees. The 5,000-square-foot space will include an indoor/outdoor bar, seating for 220 guests and a private room for special events. It will serve lunch and dinner daily next door to the Sofias’ other longtime restaurant, South Fork Grille. El Nido, Spanish for The Nest, is moving into the long-vacated space that previously was home to Mereday’s Brasserie and The American GastroPub, or TAG.
In Naples, Uncle Julio’s is under construction and targeted to open this summer in a freestanding building along U.S. 41 near the new CMX Cinebistro on the northwest corner of Coastland Center mall’s property. The nearly 11,500-square-foot restaurant and bar will have an abundance of outdoor dining space. Uncle Julio’s lunch and dinner menu is especially known for its mesquite-grilled meats, Swirl Margaritas and chocolate piñata dessert. Its made-from-scratch Mexican cuisine is from a Dallas-based Tex-Mex chain that has more than 35 locations in 12 states, including one other in Florida at Orlando’s Icon Park.
Meanwhile, 1942 Mexican Grill is finishing up its total renovation of a Wiggins Pass Crossing end unit that previously has hosted Broken Watch sports bar, The Palate Restaurant & Bar, Beach Tavern, IIWII Beach Bar & Grille and Mr. Jerry’s Tavern near the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Wiggins Pass Road. Jose Reyes, the owner of 1942, plans to take his family on their annual two-month trip to Mexico this summer, but he will open his new North Naples restaurant soon after they return, he said.
The lamps and other décor are custom-made in Mexico for a modern, upscale Mexican dining experience that includes street tacos and multiple flavors of Margaritas, Reyes said. “Everything from our décor to our paint is unique,” he said. “Our menu is going to be different than the typical Mexican restaurant you see here. It’s going to be unique to Naples.”
Reyes and several partners operate more than 25 restaurants with different names and concepts throughout Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina. “This is our first one in Florida,” he said, but notes that he plans similar Mexican restaurants in Fort Myers and two more in the Naples area.