An Apple Valley restaurant with a history of troubles is getting a new life with a new owner who is completely redoing the business.
Rosemount resident Jorge Montano is putting the finishing touches on Fiesta Mexican Cuisine, his new restaurant at 14871 Granada Av. It formerly was occupied by Spoon, an Asian fusion establishment that closed after amassing a record of brawls and fire code violations.
Montano, who has spent the last few months remodeling the 6,000-square-foot space, said he expects to be open later this month.
Van Ngo, who with her husband had owned and operated Spoon, sold the assets of the business to Montano in July. In a phone interview, Ngo said the pair decided to close and sell their operation because they plan to return to their native Indochina.
Montano discovered that Spoon's owners wanted to sell after seeing their Craigslist ad. He'd spent several years looking for a place to open a restaurant.
"It has been a dream of mine for a long time," Montano said. "I saw this opportunity and decided to take it." Montano, 45, emigrated out of Mexico about 15 years ago. His restaurant experience includes working at Teresa's Mexican Restaurant in Prior Lake and Golden Valley.
He'll be joined at the new Apple Valley restaurant by his sister, Anna. Montano's wife, Lupe, grew up near Cancun and is contributing her expertise for such menu items as Cochinita Pibil, a Mayan-style slow-roasted pork dish.
While the menu will have many items familiar to Minnesotans, like burritos and quesadillas, it also will have several dishes from the Yucatán Peninsula and from the area around Veracruz, where Montano grew up. That includes several fish and seafood dishes, including Pescado a la Veracruzana — white fish baked with onions, tomatoes, olives and spices.
Montano said he probably won't have a liquor license when he opens but plans to later.
"I'm excited for the new owners, who are creating another family friendly restaurant in our community," said Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland. She said the area "is ripe for the sparkle to begin," with recent investments by such established businesses as Warners' Stellian, which expanded its store, and new arrivals like Jay F. Jeweler, which relocated from Southport Center, where it had operated for 21 years.
The problems at Spoon led to a refusal by the City Council to renew that establishment's liquor license last January. Two months later the council granted the restaurant a conditional license to sell beer and wine. To get the conditional license, Spoon's owners had to agree to not host nightclub-type events — a source of some its problems. Police told the council last January that they had responded eight times since May 2011 to stop fights that had broken out during the nightclub events.
"We have been very impressed with Jorge," said Sybil Wilensky, managing director of Granada Shopping Center Partners, the owner of the 40,000-square-foot-mall where the restaurant will operate. Montano took over the restaurant lease as part of the deal to acquire the business assets from Spoon's owners.
"We have dealt with a lot of tenants, and many of our tenants are start-up businesses," Wilensky said. "He really did his due diligence. He had a good business plan, and any question we asked him, he had an answer." She said he had taken some business classes so he would really understand what he was getting into.
"We are thrilled to have him," Wilensky said.