La Parrilla plans to reopen this week in Lawrence; other restaurant notes from around town
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
A time machine with a dial labeled “pre-pandemic” would be welcome about now. One that comes with tacos would be even better. That’s not quite what is set to happen on Massachusetts Street, but it is close. La Parrilla plans to reopen its Mexican and Latin American-style restaurant after about a three-year hiatus.
What’s more, the new La Parrilla will be much more similar to its original version — a small, quick-service counter operation — rather than the large, multistory restaurant it was operating when it closed.
La Parrilla is set to open later this week at 712 Massachusetts St., which formerly housed Mexquisito. Yes, during a pandemic, one Mexican restaurant is opening in the spot of another Mexican restaurant that closed during the pandemic.
“Because of everything going on with COVID, I know people think we are crazy to do this,” Subarna Bhattachan, an owner of the restaurant, said.
But La Parrilla isn’t your typical startup. The restaurant’s time in Lawrence goes back to 1999, when it operated a quick-service restaurant that got in early on the trend of street tacos. That location was at 814 Massachusetts St., which is where Limestone Pizza is today. By 2013, though, the restaurant decided to try an expansion, opening a two-story restaurant at 724 Massachusetts St., but Bhattachan told me at the time of its closing that its size and configuration made it difficult to operate.
The new location actually will be smaller than the original location, and Bhattachan said he and his partners were looking forward to that.
“It will be walk up to the counter, look at the menu board, and it all will be very simple,” Bhattachan said. “It will be simple, quick, and that will make it affordable.”
It also is the type of setup that will be friendly for the pandemic age. Bhattachan said the restaurant would make carryout and delivery orders easy to process, and its smaller space would help keep, rent, utilities and labor costs low.
Bhattachan said the restaurant’s menu would be smaller than when it was in the larger location. But he said the most popular dishes would remain, which includes three varieties of street tacos, some enchilada dishes, some burrito dishes, rice bowls and a few other creations.
The recipes will remain the same, which means a heavy emphasis on the flavors from the Guanajuato state of Mexico. Alejandro Lule, a co-owner of the restaurant, grew up in that region and used many of his family’s recipes to launch La Parrilla in the late 1990s.
“We’ve always just describe it as street food,” Bhattachan said. “Everything is made from scratch and from fresh ingredients.”
Bhattachan said crews were putting the final touches on the restaurant space. He said the restaurant would open this week, perhaps as soon as Tuesday.
The restaurant business certainly hasn’t gone entirely dormant during the pandemic. Some of you keep asking me whether the pandemic had canceled plans for Texas-based Torchy’s Tacos to open in Lawrence.
It does not appear so. “Now hiring” signs were up at the location where Torchy’s previously had filed plans to locate. In case you have forgotten, that is in the old Longhorn Steakhouse location near 31st and Iowa.
I haven’t yet caught up with the local operators of the restaurant, but plan to as they open. As a reminder, the chain got its start in Austin and serves more than a dozen types of tacos, some with traditional beef and pork, but also some seafood and breakfast versions.
It looks like downtown Lawrence is going to get a new barbecue restaurant. A sign is up in the window of the former Grinder’s restaurant on New Hampshire Street. That’s 733 New Hampshire, which used to be home to La Familia. (Just a reminder that all roads in Lawrence lead to a place where I’ve stained my tie with salsa.)
I don’t have word yet on the concept. When I learn more about that, I’ll let you know. UPDATE: I did catch up with the operator. It is the pit master who briefly operated a barbecue restaurant at 19th and Massachusetts. Look for a full article later this week.