Mexican Restaurant Banned From Selling Tacos, Burritos in Chipotle Deal

By Andrea Swalec on April 24, 2012 6:43am 

Chilango chili relleno is one of Gonzalez y Gonzalez's specialties.
Chilango chili relleno is one of Gonzalez y Gonzalez's specialties.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Gonzalez y Gonzalez, the popular Greenwich Village Mexican restaurant that closed last year to make way for a Chipotle, has been allowed back into part of its old space under a bizarre deal that bans it from selling tacos, burritos and other Tex-Mex staples.

Known for its massive sombrero, Mexican food and plentiful drinks, Gonzalez y Gonzalez devastated fans when it closed its doors at 625 Broadway in January 2011 to make way for the burrito chain Chipotle.

But under an agreement with the building, Gonzalez y Gonzalez has been allowed back into half of its former home — under condition that it alter its menu to get rid of any items that are also served by its fast-food neighbor, DNAinfo has learned.

"We cannot sell tacos, burritos or fajitas," said co-owner Evan Cohen, who has worked at Gonzalez y Gonzalez for more than 20 years.

"We had to be creative .... it was part of our lease that we wouldn't sell them. We worked it out."

The new menu — which rolled out as dinner only during its soft opening Thursday — focuses on "Mexico City-style street food" including huraches, which are corn meal pancakes with cilantro and other toppings; $3 Mexican hot dogs wrapped in bacon; and tortas, or Mexican sandwiches.

Reps for Chipotle's corporate office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Gonzalez y Gonzalez began having trouble about two years ago when 625 Broadway went into foreclosure and its month-to-month lease was terminated, Cohen said previously.

The restaurant bid on the space in an attempt to stay, but a competing bid from Chipotle won.

After a bankruptcy court judge ruled in favor of Chipotle, Gonzalez y Gonzalez was given 30 days notice to vacate the building, and closed its doors at the end of January 2011.

Cohen said he and his business partners worked out a deal with Newmark Knight Frank, the management company that oversees 625 Broadway, in which they could move into the unused portion of the property not occupied by Chipotle, with the Tex-Mex-free condition.

Gonzalez y Gonzalez's signature sombrero, which once hung over its former entrance on Broadway in Greenwich Village, now hangs inside the restaurant.
Gonzalez y Gonzalez's signature sombrero, which once hung over its former entrance on Broadway in Greenwich Village, now hangs inside the restaurant.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

A spokesman for Newmark referred calls to the building's owner, saying they had nothing to do with the conditional lease.

The Argo Corporation — which is listed in city Department of Finance documents as a representative for building owner 625 Broadway Owners, LLC — also did not immediately return calls for comment. 

The food fight left customers scratching their heads.

"It's ridiculous," said longtime Gonzalez y Gonzalez fan Alison Rosenberg, who visited the restaurant Monday night with her mother, who ordered a bean and cheese "wrap" that wasn't on the menu. 

"It's a situation where corporations are taking advantage of an independent restaurant," Rosenberg, 32, said. 

Customer Alfredo Villamonte, 26, who was also a fan of the restaurant in its previous incarnation, said he thought Gonzalez y Gonzalez should have the right to call their dishes what they want.

"They were here first," he said. 

Gonzalez y Gonzalez co-owners Evan Cohen and Joey Dee Cirillo re-opened the Mexican restaurant in late April 2012.
Gonzalez y Gonzalez co-owners Evan Cohen and Joey Dee Cirillo re-opened the Mexican restaurant in late April 2012.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

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