Owners of Mas Margaritas Open La Casita Breakfast Cafe, Mamacita Taco Pub in Cedar Rapids

Cali Avo bene at La Casita Breakfast Cafe, 836 First Avenue NE, in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Garlands of artificial flowers hang from the ceiling of La Casita Breakfast Cafe, 836 First Avenue NE, in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Artwork on the walls and ceiling of Mamacita Taco Bar in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Chicken soups at Mamacita Taco Bar in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – One of the most popular categories of locally owned independent restaurants in Cedar Rapids is finding diversity in its growth, with two new openings.

Mas Margaritas owners Haile Duncan and Ozzy Aguirre, who opened their first restaurant together in northeast Cedar Rapids in early 2020, are now restaurateurs with their pair of side-by-side openings on First Avenue .

La Casita, open in December, serves a full menu of authentic and traditional Mexican breakfast options at 836 First Ave. NE – a relatively rare find in Cedar Rapids. Mamacita Taco Pub, which opened earlier in March next door at 834, offers a taqueria with perks.

The former fills a vacancy left by the closure of the Cedar Rapids locations of Riley’s Cafe in October 2021. The latter takes the place of Moose McDuffy’s.

Although these two restaurants join dozens of other Mexican restaurants in Cedar Rapids, they bring something new to the table.

La Casita Breakfast Cafe

At La Casita, a breakfast-focused menu offers some of the city’s first glimpses at a traditional, robust Mexican breakfast, with special creations from Mexico City-born Aguirre, 34, who is at Cedar Rapids for over 20 years.

Now you can get Huevos con Chorizo, Chilaquiles (fried corn tortilla chips simmered in salsa with egg on top) and Chorizo ​​Hash, alongside a host of benedicts, skillets and omelettes. inspired.

Dishes like Chorizo ​​Hash – American fries with chorizo ​​and eggs on top – not only offer a Mexican breakfast, but also dishes that other Mexican restaurants don’t have. not here yet. Other bestsellers, such as breakfast chimichangas filled with breakfast meat and served on a bed of hash browns, popularized a trend that later carried over to other restaurants.

“We had always wanted to have breakfast at Le Mas (Margaritas), it was a thought in the back of our minds,” Duncan said. “We had some very good ideas.”

If you are going to:

What: The Casita

Or: 836 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily

Call: (319) 449-4047

Details: Open for dine-in and take-out

Although they were worried about expanding to a new side of town, they jumped in with both feet and opened not one, but two new restaurants right next to each other. Along with Mas Margaritas, Mamacita Taco Pub and La Casita offer a robust menu for breakfast, lunch, appetizers and dinner.

“I had no idea how good a traditional breakfast you can do,” Duncan, 25, said. “I learned a lot about traditional dishes – Chilaquiles, Huevos con Chorizo ​​- and I think a lot of people enjoyed getting to know this culture better too.

Vegans can also enjoy a rare selection of plant-based options at this Mexican restaurant. A side menu of sweet confections with options for French toast and churro pancakes provides a complete dining experience.

Brunch aficionados can revel in an extensive liquor menu, including six flavors of mimosas and signature breakfast margaritas from the owners who have built a brand on their margaritas — especially Aguirre — with a heavy hand on tequila mixed with fresh citrus.

“He just knows how to blend flavors from different liquors and has that special touch,” Duncan said. “We still have people who (insist) that he make their margarita.”

Taco Pub Mamacita

Mamacita’s menu features a robust selection of tacos, many of which aren’t available at Mas Margaritas, or are only available on a limited basis.

Along with the traditional tacos and quesadillas, now as familiar as the hamburger in American culture, a selection of entrees will invite American palates to explore a bit more – pollo con arroz, tortas, huarache (a fried masa cake topped with meat , beans and accessories), and sopes.

If you are going to:

What: Taco Pub Mamacita

Or: 834 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Call: (319) 320-7417

Details: Open for dine-in and take-out

Aguirre created the menu based in part on things that make her family feel at home.

For the hesitant accompanying more adventurous diners, the menu also features burgers, wraps and salads that are more than an afterthought.

Mamacita also offers several vegan options.

Refresh the interior design

Like the brand of Mexican cuisine the owners have built, the interior design of the two new restaurants conveys a uniquely warm feeling for a type of food that is, technically, foreign. A walk through either of these new ventures brings a level of familiarity to anyone who has seen the interior of Mas Margaritas.

At La Casita, eyes are immediately drawn to the lush flower bed hanging from the ceiling in the small space, which is also accented by a signature aqua blue color behind the bar.

Mamacita Taco Pub was remodeled primarily with a brush and Duncan’s artistic skills, making the new restaurant just one more restaurant to add to her portfolio as an amateur interior designer.

Moose McDuffy’s dark woodwork has been transformed with teal paint, and the walls have been covered in murals by iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and Cantinflas, the “Charlie Chaplain of Mexico.”

Goals set on expansion

For the couple who met while working at La Cantina and have been in the industry for several years, their eyes are on expansion.

Aguirre has played every role in the industry, from dishwasher to homeowner. Duncan has six years of experience, which is unusual given the turnover rate in the industry.

As they consider the possibility of another Mas Margaritas location, the goal is better reach, not just more locations.

“The goal is to be able to serve more of the Cedar Rapids community,” Duncan said.

Owner Haile Duncan pours a margarita at Mamacita Taco Bar in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Shrimp tacos at Mamacita Taco Bar in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Churro cakes at La Casita Breakfast Cafe, 836 First Avenue NE, in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Queso-covered chimis breakfast at La Casita Breakfast Cafe, 836 First Avenue NE, in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Dinners at La Casita Breakfast Cafe, 836 First Avenue NE, in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Margarita at Mamacita Taco Bar in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Comments: (319) 398-8340; [email protected]

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