Posted 6/09/15 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor
Candy Solgado and Natalie Redding stood Thursday afternoon painting murals of tacos and jalapeno peppers on the outside walls of what will become Crosby’s newest dining experience, La Mexicana restaurant. And despite the cool breeze, you could almost hear mariachi band music in the wind.
La Mexicana will replace what used to be CJ’s Drive-In, at the intersection of 5th Avenue and South Main Street.
Solgado and Redding, La Mexicana’s owners, expect to be open for business within a couple of weeks. All they need is some electrical work to get done and a health inspector’s approval, both said.
The inside of the former diner and ice cream parlor is now decked out in a red, green and white Mexican motif; the booths sport colorful paint; and several large, well-gilded sombreros grace the walls.
Solgado and Redding intend to put some tables out in front of the restaurant, decorate with flags and other banners when they open.
And then Crosby will have its first true Mexican restaurant.
Solgado, a native of Mexico, started cooking in Arizona, in a school cafeteria serving about 600 children daily, she said.
“I liked being around those kids,” Solgado said. “They were high school- and middle school-aged and they really liked my food, especially the hot, spicy foods.”
Later, she moved to North Dakota and started cooking for truck drivers.
The drivers were so impressed with her food, they asked her why she didn’t open up her own place.
She also cooked for a time at Crosby’s Sunrise Care Center, where her love of hot and spicy had to be toned down, although a few adventuresome residents enjoyed the spicy side of dining.
However, that trucker idea seed about owning her own restaurant germinated when Solgado opened a small restaurant in Columbus, next to On the Spot Truck Repair.
“It had just a small kitchen, but customers really liked my food,” Solgado said.
One of those customers was Redding.
After she and her husband ate at Solgado’s restaurant, she was so taken by the food she wanted to help make owning a larger restaurant possible, and that is what brought Solgado and Redding to Crosby.
Redding said the former owner of CJ’s contacted them about the opportunity to own the restaurant and they’ve been moving forward ever since.
The hallmarks of La Mexicana will be all fresh foods, Solgado said.
“I don’t like to use anything but fresh food,” she said. “The lettuce, I buy that fresh daily and chop it. Other things, too.”
Cooking for a huge number of school children taught Solgado how to be fast at preparing things, and with Redding’s help, they hope to find a good customer base in Crosby.
Divide County has one other restaurant offering Mexican cuisines -- Uno Mas in Noonan, which is operated by Federico and Marsha Leguizamon.