There’s a Mexican restaurant moving into Benton territory, but they are no strangers to the area. It’s almost time for the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, so this news is timely. Don’t assume anything as you read on, because I almost need a family tree to tell you how this is going to happen.
There were a lot of local residents that were disappointed to hear that Carmelita’s Mexican restaurant would be leaving the property at 1415 Military Road. Long-time residents know the property. It used to be the Gulf gas station. The coffee company, 7 Brew, based in northwest Arkansas, bought the land. They currently have construction crews preparing it for a new structure. You can read that story here.
So what happens to Carmelita’s? Well, first, some background. Enter a face that’s familiar to the restaurant business in Arkansas and especially Benton. Oscar Valadez has been looking for a place to open – a home for his food since his other restaurant closed. Its name, coincidentally, was Cantina Cinco de Mayo. A fire caused their restaurant facility and an adjoining OYO Motel to become a total loss – completely unusable. After the fire department and insurance company were done investigating, the duo of buildings were leveled, and in September 2022, Benton’s new Olive Garden location opened there.
Valadez and his staff were devastated. But sometimes, from the ashes, something beautiful emerges. Oscar has been running a restaurant in Maumelle called El Charro. This new restaurant in Benton will be an additional location, bearing the same name and recipes. But let’s go back to Carmelita’s. Oscar said he bought their recipes as well, and so those dishes will be added to the list of options. There’s your answer to that question.
Don’t get distracted by the food pictures here, because I’m about to tell the location of the new place. You’ll currently find the new El Charro undergoing renovations at 1217 Ferguson Drive. The property, nestled between Key Elements consignment boutique and Pafford Ambulance, was formerly Riviera Maya, but that location closed. The locations in the Otter Creek and Midtown LR are still open.
Riviera Maya’s owners stated on April 3, 2023 via social media: “After 12 years of working and living alongside my cherished clients, to bring you our favorite recipes, it is with deep regret that I share with you the news that the Riviera Maya in Benton will close its doors on April 29, 2023. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support and understanding as we navigate a new chapter in our lives for personal health reasons. We hope you’re still able to visit our extended family in the two Little Rock Restaurant locations to enjoy your favorite dishes. Warm regards, Angelica.”
Oscar said his plans are to open slowly. “We might serve 25 people in a night, so we can do it right. We have opened the patio in the back and cleaned it up. We will have margaritas and a full bar.”
I don’t know what “slowly” means to you, but Oscar said they plan to be open in two weeks. That’s soon!