WILKES-BARRE — A downtown Wilkes-Barre Mexican restaurant has closed its doors and posted a sign informing customers it will soon reopen at another location.
Paola Mendez and her husband, Jerry Ruiz, opened their eatery in September 2011 at North Main and Union streets. Dubbed El Rincon Latino, the name translates to “The Latin Corner.” But the restaurant’s signs were removed recently and a note on the door informs customers it will reopen in two to three weeks at 21 Public Square. That spot formerly was occupied by European Bistro, which itself closed earlier this year.
The restaurant will also get a new name, since it’s not on a corner any longer. The new restaurant will be called “El Zocalo Mexican Restaurant.” Translated, that means “The Meeting Place.”
Mendez had restaurant experience before opening El Rincon. She worked at La Tolteca in Wilkes-Barre. That’s where she met Ruiz, who was one of the restaurant’s managers. Mendez left the restaurant business to raise their son, Sebastian, but eventually the restaurant bug bit her once more. Since El Rincon opened Mendez has had a second child.
The building at 21 Public Square is 1,700 square feet, according to Rob Finlay, who manages Humford Equities, the building’s owner. He said he is excited to see another ethnic restaurant coming to one of his buildings in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Humford already owns the buildings occupied by Katana, Thai Thai and Cafe Toscana.
Other restaurants also opened in downtown in recent years including Letts Eat, which serves Indian cuisine, and King of King Gyros, which serves Greek and Mediterranean fare.
Finlay said a five-year lease was signed with Mendez and Ruiz and the owners have been paying rent since June, even though they haven’t opened yet. He said a lot of interior work was needed, including a specially fabricated metal hood to help with cooking exhaust. He said that while he can’t guarantee the two-to-three-week opening promise will be kept, he believes it’s possible.
“If anyone can do it, they can,” Finlay said.
The building that had operated as El Rincon is owned by Thom Greco. There was no word on whether Greco has another tenant lined up for that location, which has seen quite a few restaurants open and close over the past several years.