The Mexican restaurant Reyna’s Taqueria recently opened a second shop in a surprising location: Sarasota Square Mall. Opening in a quiet mall anchored by a Costco and not much else might seems like a risk, but Reyna's owner Gino Calleja says otherwise.
“I don’t think they see the big picture the way we see it," he says. "It’s all about the product you serve. People will come.” Based on traffic during their first week open, he might be right. “We opened on Monday and people started coming in,” says Callejo.
The core of Reyna’s team is family. His husband and sister helped launch the original taqueria, and now his brother has moved from New York to help with the new location. Their late mother, restaurant namesake "Doña Reyna," gave them some advice: “Don’t go too big. Start slow and gradually grow.”
Callejo and his partners were inspired to open their second location, which he calls “Reyna’s South,” after he noticed that guests were driving from as far as Nokomis, Venice and even North Port to try Reyna’s Mexican fare. “Why not bring it to them?” he wondered, and he set out to find the right location.
"Reyna’s South" is serving a slightly truncated menu in comparison with the original. Soups and the tinga molote are not on the menu, but staples like tacos, sopes, burritos, quesadillas and tortas remain. “We want people from Costco to be able to order something quick and go,” says Callejo.
Guests will likely be pleased, since Reyna’s quality is top-notch. The barbacoa is slow-braised and flavorful, the chicken tinga is smoky and rich and the habanero salsa is not for the faint of heart.
Callejo hopes that his choice to open in the mall will inspire other restaurants to follow. With a built-in crowd of people coming to both Costco and the nearby AMC movie theater, his optimism is rooted in a well-researched business model. He may have the ability to see the future in a space where others only see the past.
The new Reyna's Taqueria is located inside the Sarasota Square Mall food court, at 8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, and is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. For more information visit the restaurant's website.