Hooray for tacos

Manuel's Creative Cuisine battles location jinx and plans to reopen with affordable, Baja-style menu

Manuel's Creative Cuisine battles location jinx and plans to reopen with affordable, Baja-style menu

Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas
Unfortunately, empty is often how the dining room looked at Manuel's Creative Cuisine. Manuel's Creative Cuisine/Facebook
Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas
Manuel's Creative Cuisine was likely challenged by its location in the Centrum. Manuel's Creative Cuisine/Facebook
Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas
Chef Manuel Arredondo will keep this chicken with mole on the menu. Manuel's Creative Cuisine/Facebook
Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas
Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas
Manuel's Creative Cuisine in Dallas

If any location has bad genes, it's the corner of Cedar Springs and Welborn Street, where Manuel's Creative Cuisine opened in March. Located on the ground floor of the Centrum building, this space has been home to a series of failed concepts dating back to the '90s. Most recently, it was Bengal Coast.

Manuel's is the latest casualty; the restaurant closed last week. But chef Manuel Arredondo, who owns the place with his wife, Virny, is fighting back. He will reopen Manuel's next week with a revamped menu that he hopes will come closer to fulfilling customer expectations. In a word: tacos.

 Chef Manuel Arredondo intends to reopen the restaurant next week with a revamped menu that comes closer to fulfilling customer expectations. In a word: tacos.

"Next week I’m going to change the menu to add more of a Baja cuisine and put in some of the dishes people were asking for," Arredondo says. "I will keep the mole, but we'll be going for more casual, more affordable Mexican food."

The new menu has a section called "simple tacos," priced from $3 to $5, and includes options such as carne asada, pollo tinga, and beer-battered shrimp with coleslaw and ancho pepper mayonnaise. He'll do two vegetarian quesadillas: one with mushroom, guacamole and black bean puree and the other with spinach, zucchini, potato, corn and tomato.

"The location was very difficult. But, also my concept was maybe not the right thing," he says. "We came here based on what a customer told us in San Cabo: 'You will do great in Dallas.' But I think, my having a Mexican name, a lot of people were expecting Baja-style Mexican rather than the international cuisine we had."

A native of Mexico who worked for the Hilton chain and in Europe, Arredondo and his wife opened the first Manuel's in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, in 2007. A visitor from Dallas told him about the Centrum location, perhaps unaware of its spotty history.

But Arredondo says that the landlord is making attempts to improve the situation.

"The landlord is being very supportive," Arredondo says. "We were ready to close. But he said, 'You know what? I’d rather have you there than have an empty space.'

"They're going to be making some aesthetic changes, and they'll be lighting up the trees and the entire building to make it brighter and more inviting at night," he says.

The salads are the same, including his novel take on a Caesar, and he'll keep the signature beef empanadas filled with beef picadillo and dried fruit. He's still doing a few high-end items, such as crab cake and a hanger steak for $17. And he won't stop doing his pollo mole, with a rich mole sauce that takes seven hours to make.

"It's been rough," Arredondo says. "But we have learned from this experience."