Local taco stand, Mexican grocery reaches deal to move into much bigger space; Raven bookstore gets national attention

photo by: Courtesy: La Estrella

Tortas, Mexican sandwiches, are on the menu at La Estrella at 2210 Iowa Street.

If you have ever stood behind me in line at a Mexican restaurant, you know there is a word I love to use with all Mexican food: grande. It makes everything better, and now fans of a local taco stand and Mexican grocery store will get to see how. The Lawrence tienda La Estrella has reached a deal to get much bigger in a new location.

There are actually two pieces of news to pass along about La Estrella. The biggest is that it has a deal to purchase a vacant medical office building southeast of 23rd and Iowa streets and turn it into a 12,000-square-foot Mexican eatery and grocery store. The second piece of news is that La Estrella is operating out of a new temporary location at 2210 Iowa Street.

If you remember, we’ve reported that La Estrella was among several businesses forced to move earlier this year when plans were announced for the shopping center at 25th and Iowa streets to be razed and converted into a Kwik Shop convenience store and car wash. Construction hasn’t yet started on that convenience store project, but the businesses have vacated the shopping center.

La Estrella was able to team up with a new business that had secured space near 23rd and Iowa streets. Lucky Seb’s Dumpling Bar & Grill has opened in a space that is kind of near the West Coast Saloon and S&S Artisan Pub & Coffeehouse. La Estrella is using the kitchen of Lucky Seb’s and has its grocery business set up in a space next door to the kitchen.

“That was tough,” co-owner Raul Perez said of the forced move from the business’ longtime home along south Iowa Street. “I thank everyone who helped us make the move. I’ve had a lot of support from my customers.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

La Estrella is sharing space with the new business Lucky Seb’s Dumpling Bar & Grill. La Estrella is in the temporary space at 2210 Iowa Street while it renovates a building near 23rd and Iowa streets for its new home.

Perez and his wife, Adany Perez, have owned La Estrella for about 19 years. When I reported on the plight of the business in December, I told you the business was working on a deal for a location near 23rd and Iowa.

Raul confirmed this week that he has struck a deal to buy the former First Med office building at 2323 Ridge Court. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it actually is right behind the El Mezcal Mexican restaurant along 23rd Street.

The new location is going to be about four times larger, going from 3,000 square feet in the old location to two floors of 6,000 square feet each in the new location, Raul said. He said plans call for the kitchen and taco stand portion of the building to be located on the lower floor, while the grocery store will be located on the upper floor. I say upper and lower floors, which is accurate, but both floors have ground level access because the building is constructed into a hill.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The former First Med building at 2323 Ridge Court is set to become the next location for La Estrella, a longtime tienda and taco stand that previously was located along south Iowa Street.

Raul said the extra space would allow the grocery store to carry a much larger inventory and variety of products. The more exciting additions, though, may come with the extra kitchen space. Raul said the business was considering adding a Mexican bakery to its operations. The extra space also will allow for a little bit of an expansion of the existing menu.

“Today we do three salsas,” Raul said. “In the new location, I probably will do six.”

If you are not familiar with La Estrella’s current menu, it features some authentic street tacos that feature all types of meat mixtures. Those include grilled steak, fried pork, chicken and beef head and beef tongue, plus plenty of cilantro and chopped onions on a soft tortilla.

While the grocery part of La Estrella has been around for more than a decade, the taco stand has only been open for about the last three years. Its menu has expanded some since then, and Raul said he’ll expand a bit more in the new location, but didn’t provide any clues. The current menu, in addition to tacos, includes burritos, Mexican sandwiches called tortas, quesadillas, and menudo soup on the weekends.

Raul did say to look for an expanded offering of “fruit waters” at the new place, which is a combination of fresh fruit juice and water blended in a particular way to be refreshing, especially if you place one too many peppers on that taco.

Look for La Estrella to be in the temporary location at 2210 Iowa Street for four to five months, while work gets completed at the new location on Ridge Court.

As for Lucky Seb’s Dumpling Bar & Grill, I plan to have an article on that business soon once I catch up with the owner. Currently, the business is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, and La Estrella uses the kitchen on other days.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

La Estrella’s temporary space includes an area for it Mexican grocery store and tienda. The new location will allow the business to grow its space by about four times its old location.


Speaking of grande, there is a local business that got a grande article in a national publication recently. The Raven, the downtown bookstore, was the subject of a big article in The New Yorker. The magazine did an in-depth piece on how the locally owned bookstore is not only taking on Amazon, but how owner Danny Caine often tweets about it and publicizes the battle.

The piece has a lot of information that locals probably already know about the business, which as we’ve reported is set to undertake an expansion of its own. The business is moving from its longtime Seventh Street location to Massachusetts Street later this year.

But it is always fun to see how an outside publication describes Lawrence — there are multiple John Brown references — and there are lots of current residents mentioned in the piece too. Those include former owners Pat Kehde, Mary Lou Wright and Heidi Raak, plus longtime employees Sarah Young, Kelly Barth and others.

But Caine is the center of the piece, and it is maybe his highest-profile — and most international — effort yet to promote the benefits of buying local.

“Purchasing a Margaret Atwood book from an independent bookstore instead of Amazon won’t make much of a difference for Amazon,” the article quotes Caine, but “it could be the difference between a profitable day and an unprofitable day for the indie bookstore.”

After the piece came out, Caine said via email that “we’ve gotten a wave of support from around the world in the form of kind words and book orders, and we’re ever thankful.”

You can read the full article at http://bit.ly/3qTPV8i.


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