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New South-Side Mexican Restaurant Says It Can Compete By Being Unique

Monday, October 6 2008 12:00 AM

 Four patrons gathered Monday at Senor Tequila Mexican Grill for a late-afternoon lunch.

Dozens of tables remained open, but the scene didn’t bother co-owner Cesar Ayala.

ayala, who opened the restaurant on Sept. 1, is taking his time with the new location near the intersection of Broadway and Pawnee. According to Ayala, the sign in front of the building in the Pawnee Place strip center is not right. The menu isn’t quite what he wants, either.

So even though the dine-in/carry-out restaurant has been open for a month, Ayala has yet to hold the grand opening. He wants things to be perfect.

“It’s a good opportunity,” he says.

The location seems right, he says, a few hundred yards in front of the Wal-mart at 2750 S. Broadway, sharing Pawnee Place with national establishments like Game Stop, H&R Block and Payless shoe source. But so far, restaurants, most recently China Buffet, have failed in the space.

“The landlord was very thorough,” says Landmark Real Estate’s Scott Harper, who handled the property. “He wasn’t just going to let anyone come in there and throw up a sign and give it a try.”

A DIFFERENT FLAVOR
Ayala learned the restaurant business from his uncle. Now, at 27, he’s a co-owner of seven restaurants with an eighth on the way. Ayala says he and the group of Senor Tequila owners, one of whom is his father, Jose, ran as many as 13 restaurants at one time across the Midwest. They have since sold several locations.

They opened their first Senor Tequila in Kansas seven years ago in Salina. Restaurants in Hutchinson, Lyons and now in Wichita have popped up. The group still owns two locations outside Kansas, as well.

Ayala says Senor Tequila tries to be different, which has been a mindset that has worked at its past locations.

He says the specialty is steak and fajitas. The restaurant includes a full bar in the 4,500-square-foot facility, and the decor is authentic, yet subtle. Ayala says he wanted to stay away from bright colors, which are traditional to Mexican restaurants.

“In two to three years, those will pass the style,” he says. “Mine is different. It’s classier... There’s more calm colors. The chairs, the tables, everything matches.”

FINDING A NICHE
Cathy Chase, owner of Li’l Mexico Restaurant at 1601 E. Pawnee St., a few blocks east of Senor Tequila, is not concerned about another Mexican restaurant entering the south side. At least nine Mexican restaurants are in the area from Harry Street south to Pawnee, and Seneca east to I-135, including Li’l Mexico.

“It’s not changing anything (for us),” Chase says.

Senor Tequila
Address: 2570 S. Broadway St.
Phone: 263-3888
Opened: Sept. 1.
Operating Owner: Cesar Ayala.

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