“Si,” They Are Open Again

Popular Mexican Cafe Reopens in West Annapolis*

By Allison Bourg, Staff Writer

Margarita lovers are in luck. The popular Mexican Cafe reopened in West Annapolis yesterday, just in time for today’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations.

For owner, Pam Gladfelter, the timing couldn’t be better–though it’s going to be a particularly crazy day for her and her staff of 28.

“I had to make a lot of phone calls and make sure everything was done to the T,” Gladfelter said of getting the restaurant open for today. “It doesn’t get any bigger than (Cinco de Mayo)… and, unfortunately, it is our first day of the year.”

But manager Jen Harris said her employees are ready for the flood of customers expected to pack the restaurant at its new location on Melvin Avenue. “It’ll be chaos and bedlam,” Harris said. “But it will be the most positive kind of chaos and bedlam there could be.”

The Mexican Cafe was a stable on Bay Ridge Road until last year when the developers of a nearby CVS decided they wanted to raze the hut, dubbed “little Tijuana building.” Gladfelter owned the business, but not the building or the land.

The news didn’t come as much of a surprise to Harris, who had worked there for about eight years. “The restaurant’s been in limbo for as long as I’ve been there,” she said.

The cafe closed at the end of September, and the building bulldozed a few weeks later.

“It was very difficult, but I had the mind-set that I had to move past that and find a new home for the cafe,” said Gladfelter who opened the restaurant in December 1992.

It didn’t take her long to find a new spot. The building in West Annapolis is about twice the size of the old place, Gladfelter said. “You could probably fit the entire (old) cafe on this floor,” she said, looking around the restaurant. “You could probably fit three or four of the cafe kitchens in that kitchen.”

The new spot is in an area where there aren’t many other restaurants. “I thought I could help fill that niche,” Gladfelter said. “And all the elements were right. We’re still in town so I could transfer my liquor license. There’s outside seating, it’s close to a neighborhood and the building has character.”

But her opening was slowed by ongoing zoning issues involving the building which had housed the Northwoods Restaurant. That restaurant closed in 2008, and there were questions about whether another eatery could open in that space. Gladfelter said it took about two months to resolve that issue, and about three months get all the necessary building permits.

And then there was all the work that she had to do to the interior and the exterior of the building. “The building hadn’t been in operation for two years, “Gladfelter said. “Walls had to be moved, the entire building had to be repainted.” The inside of the eatery is decorated in bright pastels reminiscent of the former cafe. “I kept hearing from customers that they wanted the same colors, so I did it up exactly the same,” she said.

For loyal customers, Jay and Barbara Bower, the reopening of their favorite restaurant couldn’t come soon enough. For the last decade, the couple has dined at the Mexican Cafe once or twice a week. “We’re truly devoted,” Barbara Bower said.

The couple grabbed an early dinner at the cafe yesterday and plan to return today to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. “It feels like Cheers,” Jay Bower said.

*Originally posted in The Capital, Arundel Report