Margaritas is one of those places that has become a part of Mystic culture. It’s the quirky Mexican restaurant that locals love both for the atmosphere and the food. And it’s a part of a collection of restaurants that celebrates the milestone of .
It all began in Concord, New Hampshire when founder John Pelletier bought his first restaurant in 1985, but it wasn’t until a few years later in 1987 with acquisition of several more restaurants and the help of his brother that the brand became a reality.
“It’s our spin on Mexican food,” Pelletier said. “Some of it is authentic some of it isn’t. We try to take the best from Mexico and fashion it with authentic food and very craveable food that works."
Pelletier use to work with the Chuck’s Steakhouse restaurants helping them open several restaurants including one in Concord before signing a deal to strike out on his own. Several years later Pelletier created another deal with Chuck’s Steakhouse and ended up purchasing the restaurant in Mystic from them which was originally called Margaritaville until Jimmy Buffett forced the name to change.
“I remember when it was Margaritaville,” of Stonington said. “Enchilada rancheros were yummy.”
The Mystic restaurant became part of the Tio Juan’s Margaritas restaurants about 20 years ago but Pelletier’s history with the restaurant goes back further.
“I was there when it opened in the 1970s,” said Pelletier who grew up in Connecticut and was familiar with the area.
“It’s a great town and the restaurant is a funky place that people love,” Pelletier said. “It’s part of the institution of Mystic.”
Locals tend to agree citing it as one of their and they love the food and drinks.
“Lime in the coconut margaritas and steak zarapes!” said of Stonington.
Which isn’t to say the Mystic restaurant and the brand of restaurants hasn’t seen there share of challenges. Pelletier said parking in Mystic is always an issue and the old building creates it’s own headaches.
“Some years are better than others, but it’s worth it.”
In 25 years Pelletier has seen the restaurant industry change, the areas around his restaurant locations develop and has seen Mexico adopt a more international outlook.
The company imports everything from Mexico and has a and suppliers. They bring tractor-trailers full of photos, chairs and fabrics back to the states, a practice that began years ago when much of that stuff wasn’t available here and while Pelletier said you can now buy a lot of things online they want to experience the food, tradition and culture as it is in Mexico.
“What it is today isn’t what it was 25 years ago,” Pelletier said. “All things change.”
But some of the things that haven’t changed Pelletier said are the restaurants commitment to the people who work there.
“I can’t be at every restaurant every day,” Pelletier said. “The people who work there everyday are the people who make it what it's and we’ve tried to treat them very well.
And the food hasn’t changed that much either. While menus adapt everything is made in-house.
“Try the skillet baked enchiladas,” Pelletier said. “They’re really unbelievable, we go to a lot of trouble to make it and it’s the most flavorful thing on the menu. “It’s cheesy, the meat is very good and the sauces are delicious.”
The company employs about 1300 people and during the next 25 years hopes to employ a lot more. Pelletier said they are settling up franchises and have signed people on in Delaware, New Jersey and Philadelphia and he hopes to open a few more restaurants.
“We’re going to start stretching south,” Pelletier said.