When Justin Primeaux, of Noank, says the restaurant business runs in his family, he’s not just talking about the family restaurant, Milagro Cafe, in Stonington Borough. His great grandfather ran a restaurant in the Mexican city of Tijuana during Prohibition and somehow the taste for tequila and authentic Mexican food has endured the distance and the generations.
Primeaux is the owner of Manana Cafe, a restaurant serving fresh, authentic and moder Mexican food in the heart of Groton. He owns the restaurant with his mother and brother-in-law Martin Zavala, who also happen to own Stonington borough’s well-known hangout, Milagro Café, on Water Street.
Milagro is popular, people love the fresh margaritas and the food and Manana is following in its footsteps. Patch caught up with Justin Primaux to say hi and find out more about the restaurant.
What’s your cooking and restaurant background? Primeaux has been in restaurants all over, in all stations since he was 16 years old. Now in his early 40s, he opened Manana, which is his first restaurant, in late April.
Where does the name Manana come from? Primeaux explained that “manana” is the Spanish word for tomorrow and it was Martin’s (his brother-in-law) favorite expression, as in, “I’ll do it manana…”
What’s your most popular dish? The Mahi tacos are most popular dish, followed by the baja tacos. People rave about the Mahi taco. One customer said it’s filling and flavorful and he orders it every time. Primeaux said their signature dish is Cochinita Pibil, which is a braised pork dish. Primeaux said, “it is the most tender dish.”
People on Facebook are giving the place five stars and saying nice things like, “great food, beverages and staff,” and “My husband and I moved to this area from California, where we ate lots of very good Mexican food, so we have pretty high standards. Manana definitely met our standard! The chips we had as a starter were warm and crispy and the burritos were perfect! We're definitely going back.”
Manana has more seating room and Milagro and they also accept reservations. Primeaux said they are accumulating a good bunch of regulars and becoming a favorite spot for events and small parties.
Why Groton? Primeaux said that Milagro is a really popular in the borough but they can’t expand there. Groton was an easy choice because it’s close to home and, aside from fast food chains, Groton has few dining options.
Is the menu different from Milagro? Yes although there are some similarities. One thing the two restaurants have in common is a robust variety of tequila. He said shots of tequila range from $7.50 to $80.
Primeaux says he takes the quality and authenticity of his food very seriously. He’s in the kitchen and behind the bar six days a week. Aside from the tortillas, everything that comes out of the kitchen is homemade, according to Primeaux, right down to the Ceasar dressing.
“I love food, I’m very picky about what comes out of our kitchen,” he said. “We don’t even buy cheddar cheese. We’re a Mexican restaurant but we don’t have a scrap of cheddar cheese.”
Manana is located in a shopping plaza at 970 Poquonnock Road, across from Starbucks and Big Y. They’re open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday. They’re open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more info call (860) 440-8301.