Beloved Tuscaloosa Mexican Restaurant Returning to Downtown Area
More than two decades after the first Jalapeno's Mexican restaurant opened in downtown Tuscaloosa, the beloved brand is returning to Temerson Square.
In a video posted to social media last week, ownership at Jalapenos announced plans to go back "to where it all started" and open a fourth location in the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa.
Another video posted Monday night confirms that Jalapenos will take over the space on 23rd Avenue long held by the Avenue Pub, which moved earlier this year into a larger space a few doors down the block.
The original Jalapenos opened in Temerson Square in 2001 before launching a second and much larger location across the Black Warrior River in Northport. In 2007, the downtown space closed and Jalapenos opened their still-operational eatery on Rice Mine Road.
Today, the Tuscaloosa staple is going strong at three locations -- on Rice Mine, near Five Points in Cottondale and in Northport off Rose Boulevard. The in-progress downtown Tuscaloosa location will become the fourth Jalapenos restaurant in the area.
Restaurateur and entrepreneur Jheovanny Gomez, who founded and still runs the Jalapenos brand, said returning to the downtown area is like coming back home.
"For me to get back over there, for me it's very special to not only serve the downtown area but just to close the circle and be able to get back there at that location -- it's very special for us," Gomez said. "We were looking for another opportunity whether it was to build another restaurant or whether it was to see where people were wanting us and when we heard downtown, it didn't take us long to say 'yes, that's where we want to be.'"
Gomez said the new downtown location will offer an exciting mix of the restaurant's heavy-hitters, like Fajita Gumbo, their famous chicken fingers and the burrito verde, but will also offer new experimental dishes, roasted salsas and the largest selection of tequila in Tuscaloosa.
"If our customers from our other restaurants want to come over there and just eat the same things they're used to, they'll have that option but at the same time, we're going to use this as a test kitchen to have a lot of different flavors and items," Gomez said. "We're going to have the biggest selection in town of tequilas, more than 85 tequilas. That's going to differentiate us from everybody else so we can have a new concept but still stick to our roots."
That will come with a host of new drink menu options, like the Caliente Margarita featuring Cazadore tequila, housemade sour mix, orange liqueur and fresh chopped jalapenos.
Gomez said his team is already hard at work renovating the old Avenue Pub space, including a new color scheme and art displays that highlight the agave plant, which is used to make tequila.
The entrepreneur said he expects to open downtown in no less than two months -- as soon as 45 days but absolutely no later than the end of this year.
"We're definitely pushing ourselves, but we want to do it right. This place is going to look totally different than what the Avenue Pub was," Gomez said.
"There's a lot of excitement from our customers who started with us 20 years ago, and now they have kids that are grown up, kids that are in college now," Gomez said. "They see it as special as we do to be able to go back to downtown, the same place where we were born and established and we'll be glad to serve them again."
Gomez said there's no particular secret to his success in a market that sees dozens of new restaurants come and go every year, except loyal customers, dedicated staff and excellent food and drinks on the menu.
"This community is amazing -- we opened 20 years ago with a little menu and people believed in us," Gomez said. "It's a combination of our customers and our staff and the hard work they put in every single day. We still have the same head cook from 21 years ago, the same one who opened downtown, he's still with us. Our staff, they just make us look good, they make us who we are, and to have somebody stay with us this long, for this many years, it's remarkable. It shows their commitment, their dedication to our brand. They believe in this community and we just love it. They're our family."
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