BATAVIA – A completely remodeled Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant has reopened and both the owners and their customers are celebrating.
Three months ago, a vehicle smashed through the restaurant’s west wall, sending shards of glass flying into the dining room, knocking over and twisting the large metal window frames and wrecking tables and chairs.
The driver in the accident was treated for injuries, but fortunately no one else was hurt.
For brothers Chabelo and Benny Martinez, long-time owners of the popular restaurant at 4 S. Van Buren St., the incident presented a major challenge.
Undeterred, and with a vision for making their restaurant better than ever, the brothers set their minds to an ambitious remodeling project.
“I think bad things happen for good reasons,” Chabelo Martinez said. “We’ve been through a lot, and there has been a lot of sacrifice, but now we feel so happy."
The remodeling effort has produced a dining room space that is brighter, more colorful and more comfortable than it ever was.
From floor to ceiling, everything in the dining room is new. The space features fancy wooden booths with padded seats and backs along both walls and a line of matching tables and chairs down the middle.
Above, stylish metal light fixtures hang from the ceiling, illuminating the rustic wood flooring and beautiful framed color photographs of famous Mexican landmarks.
Near the entrance there is now a small bar area with chic metal chairs and a view of the kitchen, while the restrooms also have been remodeled.
And of course the entire window wall looking out into the parking lot has been completely replaced.
About the only thing that has not changed would be the menu of Mexican fare and the friendly customer service.
The restaurant reopened May 21 and regular customers were already filling up the space that afternoon and offering best wishes.
Donna Jensen of South Elgin was sipping on a margarita and enjoying a late lunch.
“It’s nice to see the doors open again,” said Jensen, a regular customer at the restaurant for more than 10 years. “I’ve been coming here every week to see when they would reopen.”
“I’ve love the boys,” Jensen said, referring to the Martinez brothers. “They make me feel at home.”
Charlie Boddie, formerly of Batavia and now a North Aurora resident, has been a regular customer for years and said his son used to work sweeping the floors for the Martinez brothers.
“I’m so glad they’re back open,” Boddie said.
“I feel so great to see all of our regular customers,” Benny Martinez said. “We have really tried hard to make this happen.”
Including its outdoor patio area next to East Wilson Street, the restaurant has seating for about 80 patrons.
“Our customers are so excited,” Chabelo Martinez said. “We feel people are very connected to this location.”
The restaurant features half-price margaritas on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Martinez brothers employ a staff of five people.