CEDAR RAPIDS — When Haile Duncan saw a “Mas Margaritas, coming soon” sign outside a Boyson Road storefront last year, she didn’t think she’d end up owning the Mexican restaurant. She simply reached out to the owners to see if she could work there.
But when they told her they had changed their minds and weren’t going to open Mas Margaritas after all, Duncan saw an opportunity.
She and Ozzy Aguirre, whom she had worked with at another Mexican restaurant, La Cantina, decided this was a chance to go into business for themselves. They purchased Mas Margaritas, and on Jan. 1, they officially opened the doors.
“We had this opportunity and decided to run with it,” Duncan said. “We both are super motivated and were looking for the next good thing to do. We didn’t want to pass it up.”
This is a chance to share their ideas with customers, Aguirre said.
“We wanted something of ours,” he said. “When you work for someone else, you’re limited. We think now people know a little bit more about the culture, foodwise, and that’s what we want to bring out to the people.”
Duncan recalled Aguirre making food for the staff at La Cantina and customers asking if they could try those dishes.
“We wanted to share those authentic ideas, those authentic flavors with people,” Duncan said.
The menu at Mas Margaritas has a range of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. One section of the menu is dedicated to their favorite items, including chilaquiles, tortillas simmered in salsa with eggs or meat, sour cream, queso fresco, onions and cilantro; Ozzy’s specialty tacos, with steak, grilled onions, tomatoes and cheese; fajitas Jalisco, with chicken, chorizo and grilled cactus; and more. They also have sections dedicated to street tacos, seafood, quesadillas, burritos, and more. They plan to add weekend soup specials like menudo and posole. Aguirre said all their salsas, tortillas and other items are made from scratch, in-house.
True to the restaurant’s name, they also have a list of several margaritas and other cocktails to choose from. One is the Ozzy margarita, Aguirre’s recipe that customers at La Cantina would request.
“People would come in and say, ‘I have to have an Ozzy-made margarita,’ so we had to throw that on the menu,” Duncan said.
Duncan, who has an interest in art, painted murals on two walls in the restaurant, one of Frida Kahlo and the other of a Day of the Dead skull. That one still is unfinished; she thought she’d have some slow evenings after the restaurant opened to finish it, but business has been so brisk she hasn’t had time.
“We took off way quicker than we thought we would,” she said.
Going from being employees to being owners has come with a learning curve, Duncan said, but they’re enjoying it.
“It was kind of a scary risk, to be honest. This is something we’ve never done before,” she said. “Despite all the hard work, the customer interaction and appreciation is probably the biggest reward ... We love meeting our customers and making people feel like family.”
Aguirre said those customer interactions are his favorite part of the restaurant business.
“I like to make people feel at home, to have people get to know each other,” he said.
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If you go
• What: Mas Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
• Where: 588 Boyson Rd. NE, Suite 124, Cedar Rapids
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
• Details: (319) 826-1800, facebook.com/masmargaritas319
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