TNT Diner

Tacoma-based Moctezuma’s will open a fourth restaurant

A bowl of molcajete from Moctezuma’s. The restaurant is based in Tacoma.
A bowl of molcajete from Moctezuma’s. The restaurant is based in Tacoma. Staff file, 2016

Tacoma-founded Moctezuma’s Mexican Restaurant will open a fourth restaurant later this year.

The next location will be in Silverdale, said Bernie Garcia, who operates the South Sound company founded by his parents, Arturo and Magdalena Garcia, in 1978.

The 300-seat Silverdale Moctezuma’s will open in the Kitsap Mall, across from Silver City Brewery. It will take over the location previously occupied by Hale’s Alehouse.

The restaurant in its early days was a small operation with a menu of Mexican-American dishes similar to the offerings of just about every regional Mexican restaurant chain. In the last 10 years since they took over for their parents, Garcia and his sister Maribel Arias have turned Moctezuma’s into a contemporary Mexican restaurant and tequila bar. They’ve also worked on expanding the restaurant company’s regional footprint.

“It took awhile to refine the concept, taking it from a mom-and-pop operation to more of a sustainable concept that can be adapted and where we can compete with the big guys,” said Garcia.

The Tacoma dining room was made over with contemporary art and fixtures sourced in Mexico, as was the new location for the Gig Harbor Moctezuma’s that opened in 2012 (its original Gig Harbor location opened in 1993).

In the kitchen, cooks began making in-house everything the restaurant possibly could, from the tortillas that are handmade in view of diners to the handmade margaritas blended with fresh lime juice, not a mix.

A Southcenter Moctezuma’s — one that has equal real estate split between a restaurant and tequila bar — opened in late 2014. When Silverdale opens later this year, it also will have an expanded tequila bar, as well as a patio that will connect with the restaurant’s bar. It also will have a large private space for up to 50 or 60 diners.

And stores five, six and seven won’t be far behind. “We want to grow one a year,” said Garcia, who could not discuss locations because of pending negotiations. He did say that at least one of the restaurants would be north.

If all goes as planned, the Silverdale restaurant should open in six months, Garcia said.

Moctezuma’s Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar