Maciel's to open second location


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Getting ready for the opening of Maciel's Highland: Mason Jambon, John Planchon, Taylor Berger, Lisha and Manuel Martinez and Preston Maciel Martinez. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Getting ready for the opening of Maciel's Highland: Mason Jambon, John Planchon, Taylor Berger, Lisha and Manuel Martinez and Preston Maciel Martinez.

Maciel’s Highland will open Feb. 15 on the Highland Strip.

The popular Downtown restaurant will open its second location at 525 South Highland, the former site of R P Billiards and Highland Cue.

Maciel’s Highland will be the fifth establishment included in the ITS Fine partnership of Taylor Berger and John Planchon. Their other restaurants and venues include Loflin Yard, Railgarten, Rec Room and Bounty on Broad.

Maciel’s Highland, which will serve everything on its Downtown location menu and more, will be open between 11 a.m. and 9 pm. every day except Sunday. The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner.

Customers still will be able to order their favorites, including the Cubana tortas and chipotle shrimp tacos, but chef/owner Manuel Martinez wants to eventually offer a “bigger menu” with “more seafood, a ton of different dishes.” Future plans include brunch, he said.

His restaurant isn’t the “ burritos covered in cheese” type Mexican establishment, Martinez said. Maciel’s offers “traditional cooking, which is more like everyday cooking” in Mexico. “Like people eat when they go out to eat at a taco stand.”

Maciel’s Highland also will feature a bar, where customers can get their favorite drinks as well as traditional Mexican mixed drinks, including the Changuirongo, tequila and lime on ice with a bottle of Jarritos Mexican soda.

A mural on the South wall painted by Nosey includes pictures of fresh vegetables and fruits that are used in the dishes as well as images depicting the career of Martinez. The rear of the restaurant opens onto a 1,500-square-foot patio.

Martinez and his wife, Lisha, opened the Downtown Maciel’s at 45 South Main on Oct. 20, 2015 with money they saved as well as money they made working at a restaurant in Olive Branch.

Business halted last July. “The ceiling fell in,” Martinez said. The restaurant was closed for repairs for three months. It reopened almost two years to the date it opened.

Berger was a fan of Maciel’s long before he thought about opening a second location. “I had been going to the restaurant since they opened,” he said. “I just loved the food.”

Berger, who had acquired the old R P Billiards space, approached Martinez and said, “I’ve got an idea for a spot on Highland.”

He knew Martinez’s food would be popular on the Highland Strip. “His food will work anywhere."

And, Berger said, Martinez “has a big heart for his customers and his staff.”

Martinez felt it was an “opportunity to grow,” so more people will learn about his food.

A native of Morelia, Michoacan, Martinez began cooking at El Solar de Villagran, a popular Mexican restaurant where he originally worked as a barback at 14. “I’ve always had a dream to open a business.”

He moved to Memphis in 2007. His first restaurant job was at a restaurant in Olive Branch, where he met his wife. He lived on Winchester. “I didn’t have money. I had to ride a bicycle to work.”

A bicycle is one of the images on the mural.

Maciel’s isn’t “just another Mexican restaurant, taco stand,” said ITS Fine director of operations Mason Jambon.

The way Martinez treats food is the same as the chefs do in “established high end restaurants,” he said.

“No pretentiousness,” Berger said.

Martinez said he’s “meticulous” with his food. He makes his 17 sauces fresh every morning. The chips are made in house. He wants people to remember his food. He wants them to say, “Oh, man, I really want to go eat those tacos.”

Martinez, whose son is named Preston Maciel Martinez, said the name “Maciel” comes from his father, Maciel Martinez, who lives in Fontana, California. A woman typed “Maciel” instead of “Manuel” on his dad’s birth certificate, Manuel said.

He named the restaurant after his father because, he said, “I felt like I never made my dad proud of me.”

Now, he said, his dad can say, “Yep. That’s my kid.”

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