A few weeks without their favorite eatery left loyal customers anxious. Now open in Pines, new Plaza Tapatia has seen steady flow of fans
(Feb. 8, 2013) As Armando Saldana walked out of the kitchen and through the bar area filled with patrons Tuesday evening, he stood in the doorway and peered into the dining room of the new Plaza Tapatia restaurant, where each table was occupied by diners, and he smiled.
“I feel very happy,” said Saldana, owner of the restaurant that opened its doors on Jan. 24 in the Pennington Commons, across from the South Gate. Since the grand-opening celebration on Jan. 30 – featuring a deejay and a mariachi band — customers have packed the restaurant every day.
Saldana has seen many familiar faces, as a number of the customers who dined at the West Ocean City restaurant on Route 50 have now come to Ocean Pines. First-time guests are also visiting the new restaurant.
“Every day we’re busy,” Saldana said. “People love it. Everybody is happy and excited.”
One satisfied customer Tuesday evening was Frank Exley of Ocean Pines. Eating the nacho supreme with beef, he said, “This is the best I’ve had in Ocean City and I’ve been here 17 years.”
“With his food, he’ll do fine here,” he added.
Exley also boasted about the $1.99 Corona bottle hap-py hour special as he took a sip.
Ocean Pines was Saldana’s ideal location initially to open a Mexican restaurant. Unfortunately, he could not find a prime spot in the com-
munity. He opened the first Plaza Tapatia in West Ocean City in 1997.
Since then, nine more have sprung up. There are two restaurants in Salisbury, and one in Easton, Cambridge, Pocomoke, Chestertown and Elkton. In Delaware, there is a Plaza Tapatia in Seaford and one in Bear.
Saldana said he plans to open another restaurant in Saint Michaels in a month or so.
In October, Saldana closed the West Ocean City eatery to relocate to Ocean Pines because the community has more year-round residents. He has already seen an increase in lunch business compared to the previous location.
At approximately 5,000 square feet, the new space is about twice as large as the previous building.
There is seating for 120 in the dining room and more than a dozen at the bar, while the old restaurant fit about 72 guests.
All of the kitchen equipment is new. Saldana is not only the owner, but he can cook and tend bar — he trained his employees — and he is a carpenter, as well. He built all of the tables and booths in the new restaurant. He constructed the bars at some of the other Plaza Tapatia restaurants.
The authentic Mexican establishment features more than 140 dishes. Saldana said customers have tried everything, but the most popular is No. 106 Fajitas for Two. His favorites are the chicken fajita and pork chops (chuletas rojas).
“It’s good food at an affordable price,” he said.
Happy hour is Monday through Thursday, 4-7, p.m., featuring $1.75 domestic 12-ounce drafts (32 ounces for $3), $1.99 Corona and Tecate bottles and 12-ounce margaritas on the rocks for $2.25 and $2.50 frozen lime margaritas. Lunch and dinner specials also offered.
The Manklin Creek Road restaurant opens at 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and at noon Saturday and Sunday.
A mariachi band will perform about once a month, Saldana said. The next performance is scheduled for Feb. 27, from 6-9 p.m.