Monday, January 24, 2011

The story behind the Plaza's new Mexican restaurant

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The long-empty Mi Cocina space will be loud and lively this summer.
  • The long-empty Mi Cocina space will be loud and lively this summer.

The former Mi Cocina space on the Country Club Plaza has been leased to a partnership group that includes Victor Esquada and Ivan Marquez (proprietors of the Northland's Ixtapa and Olathe's Frida's Contemporary Mexican restaurants) and 38-year-old Chris Ridler, owner of the combination restaurant and watering hole Sol Cantina, located in midtown's "Martini Corner" district.

The Kansas City Star has reported that these partners plan to create a concept similar to Frida's at the Plaza location. But Ridler says that's not exactly right.


"This will be a completely new concept," says Ridler, sitting in the sunny dining room of Sol Cantina. "The new space will be a casual but sophisticated gathering space. We feel it will become a social destination spot, a place where you go to meet friends or go meet soon-to-be friends."

The yet-unnamed restaurant will open, says Ridler, in late spring. Until then, the Country Club Plaza remains without a Mexican restaurant.

In the 1980s, the former Annie's Santa Fe was that era's combination of Tex-Mex cantina and popular social destination spot; that high-profile location, last occupied by Blonde, remains empty. More recently, Baja 600 was the Mexican-flavored social destination; the enclosed patio stayed busy right up until the venue closed last July.

click to enlarge Is there a patio in this space's future?
  • Is there a patio in this space's future?
There will be a small outdoor patio adjacent to the new Mexican concept. "And not in the alley," says Ridler, adding that the new restaurant and bar will be able to utilize much of the stainless-steel kitchen left by Mi Cocina. The rest of the building -- for years occupied by a fur company prior to the Mi Cocina renovation -- has been gutted and is awaiting construction.

Music will be an important component of the new venue, Ridler says. "We're combining the best of both establishments," he says. "The great and unique food of Frida's with the social excitement of Sol Cantina. We'll have a very energetic bar scene that will encourage groups of people to meet and gather here."

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