Marshall V. King
Dining A La King
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The little restaurant at the corner of Main and Middlebury streets in downtown Elkhart has been a lot of things.
It's been one of those spots that has been a lot of different restaurants over the past number of years. Some of them were good. Some of them weren't.
But the latest one, Antojitos Mexicanos, seems to be taking root in a different way.
The building has new owners.
The restaurant at 102 Middlebury St. has a new owner.
And the new owner went looking for someone who could run the restaurant she wanted.
Dr. Mark and Deidre Quiring bought the building and are making improvements.
Brett Coppins, a former Elkhart police officer who is a private investigator, wanted another business other than Coppins Investigative Group.
“I wanted to find a business where I would be the investor, the owner, but it would give someone a chance to have their own business,” said Coppins, who also taught investigators in Iraq after retiring as a police officer.
Linda Soto had Antojitos Mexicanos about 10 years ago in Dunlap. She closed it due to a divorce and was a Head Start teacher. Coppins was a mentor for her son at Hawthorne Elementary School and learned she wanted back in the restaurant business.
So they became partners and Antojitos opened in November.
Business is going well.
Coppins' name helps. City officials and other police officers are visiting because of his involvement.
Some fresh paint and good marketing has helped raise the profile of the place as well.
Oh, and the food is good.
“Linda's food is so good,” Coppins said of his general manager.
Soto added, “I know my food,” and spoke with pride about the style of food she makes from Mexico City.
She doesn't just sell tacos and burritos like a taqueria. She has larger plates that include huaraches, a fresh, oblong corn tortilla topped with a variety of fillings and vegetables. There are also quesadillas, fajitas and enchiladas.
The restaurant doesn't have a freezer, so what she's cooking is fresh.
I've liked the things I've tried. The fajitas, burritos, flautas, huarache and quesadillas I've tasted or seen are nicely done and priced to offer a great value. The restaurant has become a quick favorite of a number of newsroom staff members.
The flavors are clean. The salsas are good. And the menu is vast enough that reading the descriptions and viewing its photos makes me hungry and curious about a number of dishes.
I want to try the pambaso, which is a sandwich with potatoes, sausage and chiles ($3.75) and the sopes, which are tortillas filled with cheese and meat ($2.49). But the enchiladas also look interesting too.
The restaurant is a short walk from my office. Occasionally, carry-out food has gotten a bit disheveled by the time it got back to my desk. But that may improve with a new insulated bag the restaurant is selling for $15. Purchasing something when you have the bag knocks 10 percent off the price.
Coppins and Soto know that having consistent prices, hours and food is important to success. They're seeing repeat customers, I think in part because they're doing those three things.
“We're really excited about the fact that so many people in the downtown are supporting us,” he said.
Coppins was going to make the restaurant carry-out only, but there are a few seats. Now there's a chance the restaurant will become larger and have bathrooms if they expand into a room next to the existing restaurant, he said.
Soto and Coppins also want to expand the operation. They hope to add delivery. And Soto wants to teach English classes to students and parents in the restaurant when it's not open. “We want to provide to the community,” she said.
There's a lot to like at Antojitos Mexicanos. It's clean and pleasant. The food is good. It's taking root as a number of people look at downtown Elkhart and how to make it better.
This little restaurant, around the corner from Sweet Creams Soda Shop and other good downtown restaurants, could help downtown in any number of ways.
Marshall V. King is news and multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-296-5805. You can also follow Dining A La King on Facebook.
If You Go
What: Antojitos Mexicanos
Where: 102 Middlebury St., Elkhart
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday and Saturday; 11 to 9 Friday.
Details: Carry-out available, credit cards accepted, no smoking, no public restroom, limited handicapped accessibility