BLOOMINGTON — Jose Aguas wanted to add some new items to his menu, but he couldn't without closing the fast food Mexican restaurant he has operated in downtown Bloomington since 1995.
La Bamba, 108 W. Washington St., was one of 17 throughout the Midwest opened in the last 25 years by a corporation with family members involved at each location, Aguas said.
"Basically, as part of the corporation, you can't do any changes unless they give you the green light," said Aguas. "I wanted to be able to be independent, to have a little more variety, so I had to leave the corporation."
The corporation was formed after brothers Ramiro and Antonio Aguas opened the first La Bamba restaurant in 1987 in Champaign.
Before opening the downtown Bloomington restaurant by the same name, Jose Aguas and his brother, Lupe, opened a La Bamba at 129 E. Beaufort St. in Normal in 1991, which remains open.
Jose Aguas closed the Bloomington La Bamba Nov. 30 and plans to open later this month or in early February as Poblano Burritos at the same location.
He is bringing in Antonio Castro, who has worked for Jose Aguas for the last 10 years, as a business partner in the new restaurant.
The Bloomington restaurant was popular with late night downtown bar patrons.
"We're shooting for the same clientele with the same food items that we have been offering, but we will have some add-ons to attract new customers," Jose Aguas said.
Fajitas, a steak plate, taquitos and enchiladas are some of the new offerings that will be served along with familiar menu items such as burritos, quesadillas, soft-shell tacos, nachos and tortas.
Planned menu item prices will range from $1.60-$8.
The restaurant will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. until the downtown bars close on Friday and Saturday.
He plans to also be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, when he will offer some unique Mexican food specialties such as menudo and Mexican gyros-style pork.
Closing the restaurant was bittersweet, Jose Aguas said.
"When you have something for 20 years, you get a little attached to it," he said, "but I had to close it to have a shot at trying something new."
If the new restaurant is successful, Jose Aguas said he hopes to open one similar in the site of the former La Bamba restaurant he operated in Peoria.
Jose Aguas also plans to open a new nail salon later this month, Wow Lili's Nail Bar, at 2401 E. Oakland Ave., Bloomington, where Le's Nail was formerly located.