MELROSE — A new Mexican restaurant featuring 40 different types of tequila should arrive as an early Christmas present for Bronx residents.
Veteran Bronx restaurateur Antonio Vilchis said he hopes to open his latest eatery, Mexicocina Cantina, by Dec. 20 at 289 E. 149th St.
The menu will include standard Mexican fare like tacos, quesadillas, nachos and carne asada, but Vilchis anticipates the bar will be the biggest draw for customers.
"A lot of tequilas and mezcals — that's what we want to be known for in the area," he said. "Nobody has mezcals and tequila in the area."
Mexicocina Cantina will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and should be able to seat 70 people. Vilchis also plans to temporarily host an all-day happy hour at the restaurant from Mondays through Thursdays to help draw in customers that will feature margaritas, sangria and wine for $5 and beer for $3.50.
Vilchis has been in the food business in borough for almost 10 years and currently owns two other eateries: another Mexican restaurant called Mexicosina at 503 Jackson Ave. and an Italian restaurant called La Dolce Cucina at 772 E. 149th St.
He maintained that The Bronx has become a more popular place for restaurants and for people to live since he first entered the business in 2008, describing it as a relatively affordable area of New York that offers easy access to other parts of the city.
"I've seen a lot of restaurants open since then, since 2008, and they're all still in business," he said. "That means there are customers for everybody."
The borough has been getting safer as well, Vilchis said, noting that he has been getting out of work and walking home at 2 a.m. for years but has never had any problems with crime.
"I haven’t been harassed by anybody, so it seems like the area has been changing," he said. "Little by little, it seems like the area has grown and been changing for the better."
Vilchis singled out the area of Mott Haven and Port Morris around Bruckner Boulevard as a part of the borough that had seen a particularly large influx of restaurants lately, with establishments including Filtered Coffee, La Grata and Milk Burger recently joining a food scene that already features eateries like Ceetay, Charlie's Bar & Kitchen and the Mott Haven Bar and Grill.
He hopes to be part of that growth and would like the nearby section of the borough where his restaurants are located to see similar growth in the food scene.
"It's quiet," he said. "You can walk around from one restaurant to another, have a drink here, have an appetizer there."
However, he still does not want the neighborhood to become too hot, as that might end up putting a strain on his finances.
"I don’t want it to become that popular," he said, "because my rent is going to go up."