Friday, April 18, 2014

Former Ottawa Mexican eatery reopens at Baldwin City locale

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 9/27/2013

It’s time to get back to the basics, Mike Pacheco said.

After more than 10 years of El Jacal being gone from Ottawa’s Main Street, the restaurant has reopened, but in Baldwin City, Kan., Pacheco, co-owner of El Jacal, 711 Height St., Baldwin City, said.

It’s time to get back to the basics, Mike Pacheco said.

After more than 10 years of El Jacal being gone from Ottawa’s Main Street, the restaurant has reopened, but in Baldwin City, Kan., Pacheco, co-owner of El Jacal, 711 Height St., Baldwin City, said.

“My dad was in the restaurant business in Ottawa for 27 years,” he said. “My dad ran the business but never owned the building he operated out of so when I took over after a year the building was put up for sale by the owners.”

El Jacal traded names, owners and chefs over the years before officially leaving in 2002, when El Mezcal was opened, Pacheco said. El Mezcal has since closed pending an investigation.

After years of not working at a family-run restaurant, Pacheco said when an opportunity to open a restaurant recently came along, he thought about bringing the business back to Ottawa.

“A lot of things have changed in Ottawa,” he said. “There’s a lot of Mexican restaurants there now. I still have a cousin who operates a restaurant there now. I wanted to move some place else, and I’ve always liked Baldwin City.”

Wanting to create the same memories many Ottawans shared at his mom and dad’s restaurant years ago, Pacheco said, he’s trying to make the new place feel like home.

“I wanted to get back to a little place like my mom and dad first opened,” he said. “It’s a location we couldn’t pass up. We’re excited and happy to be here and to have this building and think it’s going to work out.”

The new El Jacal location can seat significantly more people than the old location, Pacheco said, but other than that, El Jacal is just as it used to be.

“My idea in the beginning was to get back to the basics,” he said. “I didn’t do anything different but expand the menu and hours. And of course I raised the bar a bit, but at the same time, I just built on what my dad did. He’s the one who set the menu, the method, how thing are done and made -- all I did was continue that and put my spin on it.”

Ottawans had been asking Pacheco for a long time when he was coming back to Main Street he said. Even though the restaurant is in Baldwin City, he hopes to bring in some of his clientele from Ottawa, he said.

“[El Jacal] is well known by lots of people,” he said. “Once we let people know [El Jacal] is back but in Baldwin, we’ll get the customers back we had 10 years ago.”

The restaurant has been open a little over a week and has experienced its fair share of hiccups, Pacheco said, but it’s off to a great start.

“It’s a dream come true again,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to [reopen] because I believe in the restaurant and the food. It’s going to be successful. It’s a beautiful place, it’s exciting, and it’s already starting to catch on.”

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