Near the back of the restaurant, all along one of the newly adorned walls of Chiladas Fresh Mex Grill, there is a large, almost life-sized photograph of two men in a lush field, inspecting a dark green handful of lettuce. Though it appears that the two could both be farmers, one of the two men is Bob Strate, who helped establish TaMolly’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant with locations in Texas, Arkansas, and Lousiana.
The photo is a reminder of the importance of farmers and their role in facilitating quality and freshness. At Chiladas, the latest restaurant from the TaMolly’s family and Plano’s newest fast-casual, Tex-Mex restaurant, it’s a reminder that though the concept may be new, the tradition it follows is strong and established.
“Chiladas is a concept that came out of our many years of Tex-Mex experience. We took a lot of the processes, made the food a little more modern and suited to a fast-casual environment,” says Travis Strate, Bob’s son. “We want to provide a modern Tex-Mex meal in an upscale atmosphere, and all at a good price.”
Chiladas, which will celebrate its grand opening tomorrow after its soft open on Monday, features a menu with enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and salads – along with the salsas and guacamole – that could be expected at a Tex-Mex restaurant, though the menu is certainly pared down from what might be found at a sit-down restaurant. Rather than copy the menu and change the name, Chiladas seeks to follow the path of its TaMolly’s through the same practices and principles that made its predecessor successful. Though they are words, phrases and ideas that may seem trendy today, CEO Night Keyes observes that it’s really just a continuation of how the family has always operated.
“When we started out 25 years ago, everything was done by hand, carefully and methodically, and we’ve kept that process, even while improving them but that’s just innately the way we prepare food. So when we set upon this concept, that’s what we wanted to do, was to serve our traditional dishes – prepared in traditional ways – with a little more flair to them and in a manner that makes it accessible to people today,” he observes. “With kids, work, and busy schedules, there’s an appreciation for a real level of quality in that environment.”
Chef Chris King expounds on Keyes’ point by observing his daily arrival time at the restaurant: 7:30 a.m. He will braise the pork (a 12-hour process) that has been marinating (a 24-hour process) as well as begin the chopping, slicing, and general preparation that is inherent in any restaurant kitchen. It’s a way of doing things that Public Relations Coordinator Katie Day believes will provide those on the go with either a quick, quality meal or a chance to take a respite from a busy day.
“You can go drive through Taco Bell or go sit down at Mi Cocina, but there are so few places that you can come in with your kids, last-minute, have a great meal and be in and out in under 30 minutes,” she says. “Or you can come in, relax, have a margarita or two and hang out for a couple of hours.”
It’s a fast-casual concept that hopes to establish consistent quality not based on traditional fast-food methods, but rather on tradition; a tradition established at the first TaMolly’s more than 25 years ago in Sulpher Springs. Yes, it’s been updated, and the atmosphere in Plano is different than any that have preceded it, but ultimately, Chiladas is a new medium for a tradition established a long time ago.