The restaurant building on Fife Street is once again home to a Mexican restaurant.
Tonala Mexican Restaurant opened Saturday in a building readers still call “the old Chevy’s Fresh Mex.”
That building has been vacant more than it’s been occupied over the last five years.
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Tonala is a second restaurant for Miguel Contreras, his wife Connie, and their two children.
They opened their first Tonala Mexican Restaurant in Spanaway in 2015.
Here’s a first look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.
Owners: Miguel and Connie Contreras opened their first El Patio Mexican restaurant in Pierce County in 1995, followed by a second location in 1997 and a third in Yelm two years later. They sold the three about seven years ago but decided they needed a new project.
The name: They named their new restaurant project after a city in Jalisco to which the family has a connection.
“My wife went to college in Guadalajara and she loved Tonala. Every time we go to Mexico we go to Tonala. It’s a beautiful little town,” said Contreras.
The space: Expansive space with room for 160. A roomy bar at the front of the restaurant with two tables for large groups (seating 8-10 diners each). The all-ages seating carries the same layout NYP Bar had. Booths line the entry all the way back to a large dining area with four-seat tables and more booths. A rear private dining area can handle more than 20 diners.
Seating: Ultra comfortable seats with well-padded booths and scoop-back chairs built for lounging in the main dining room.
Decor: More modern than the cantinas of yesteryear with dramatic drop lighting, polished concrete floors and sophisticated wood and metal accents. If you’re looking for a local comparison, it looks something like the El Toro on Canyon.
Dinner menu: Huge selection of the greatest hits of Mexican-American family dining with an endless selection of street tacos ($8.99 to $12.99), burritos ($12.99 to $13.99), fajitas ($13.99 to $18.99), enchiladas ($12.99), quesadillas ($9.50 to $14.99), salads ($10.99 to $14.99), combination platters ($8.99 to$13.99) and specialties such as molcajete ($17.99) and chile rellenos made with pasilla peppers ($15.99).
Also, a selection of more than 30 grilled and slow-cooked chicken, pork, beef and seafood dishes ($13.99 to $18.99). A full bar with cocktails and beer.
More menu: Lunch menu available all day for seniors 55+ and includes combination plates ($8.99 to $10.99), 10 entree plates ($9.99 to $12.99), plus burritos ($7.99 to $9.59) and soups and salads ($7.99 to $9.99). Kids meals include 11 choices ($4.59 to $5.99). Numerous vegetarian options listed on the menu.
Get the: Street tacos. A plate of four cinnamon-spiked carnitas, with fatty edges and a crisp-fried exterior, came atop doubled-up corn tortillas with sliced radishes, fresh chopped cilantro and onions ($8.99). Add-on beans and rice ($6) arrived well seasoned. The beans carried a coating of yellow and white cheeses, the rice studded with bell peppers.
Weekend soup: Menudo and pozole on Saturday and Sunday only. Menudo arrived as a chile-spiked broth (on the mild side) with slippery pieces of well-handled tripe, a condiment tray with chile pepper, oregano and onions, plus soft and crispy corn tortillas for dunking ($12.99).
Tonala Mexican Restaurant
Where: 3702 S. Fife St., Tacoma
Info: 253-507-8469, tonalamexicanrestaurant.com
Hours: Serving lunch and dinner daily. Open at 11 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
Spanaway location: 22225 Mountain Hwy East, Spanaway; 253-375-7333