By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
After nearly a third of a century as a Mexican food fixture on North Avenue K in Portales, family-owned La Hacienda has moved to the 1001 W First location, where Tastee Freeze and the Wagon Wheel Cafe were formerly located.
“We wanted to get on this side of town because it’s a better location and closer to the university,” co-owner Esther Ornelas said.
Her son, and kitchen manager Randy Ornelas agreed.
“I’m very happy to be able to move up, because I know it’s a very big step to be in a better place in town,” Randy said. “Over there it’s kind of hard because it’s hidden.”
Before deciding on their new building, the family considered the building that formerly housed The Roosevelt and The Territorial on the square. They also considered the old Burger King building.
“When they closed Tastee Freeze, we had an interest in it and then we just finally said, ‘we’ll just wait,’ and then the Wagon Wheel moved in and when they closed down, my husband said, ‘well, I think maybe it’s time for us to move.’”
“This was our number one (choice) because of the location and the parking,” Esther said.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere,” Randy said. “It’s awesome. I like the kitchen because our kitchen over there was really small. I’m still trying to get situated and trying to figure out where everything is at.”
The restaurant didn’t have much down time in the transition. The old restaurant closed Thursday at 3 p.m. and La Hacienda was open for business at its new location Friday morning.
“We bought everything that was here,” Randy said. “We bought it totally furnished so it was a lot easier than having to bring all the tables and everything.”
While Esther and 21-year-old daughter Krystle manage the front-of-the-house, Esther’s husband Crespin and son Randy run the kitchen.
“I know that this is my future,” Randy said. “My parents did it for me and my sister. They know that we’ll have a future.”
Esther’s parents began the establishment in 1975 and they passed it down to their kids in 1999.
“My mom and dad still help us,” Esther said. “They were here yesterday all day helping us and checking the food because we got the recipes from her.”
And according to Randy and Esther, their regular customers were just as eager to see the move as they were.
“I love it,” Randy said. “It gives me a big smile on my face because I know that a lot of people would ask us every day, ‘when are you moving,’ and we were just waiting for our mama to move.”
“There’s a lot of people that I’ve met over the years. It’s been enjoyable. It’s been a good business and a good living,” Esther said. “A lot of people are happy for us. Our regulars are real excited.”
As for the quality of their food, Randy says not to worry.
“The same way that it was 31 years ago when we opened — it will be exactly the same forever. Because that’s what people like and that’s why people keep coming back is because it’s the same.”
“There’s people that go to college 20 years ago and they still come back because it tastes the same as they remember 20 years ago.