New restaurant brings culture to campus

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For more than a year, students have walked past the vacant building that was once Iggy’s, wondering the fate of the high-potential on-campus property. Today, bright, Mexican-themed murals greet passersby and prove that a new enterprise is on its way.

 

Gurpreet Padda and Amy Grimes co-own the soon-to-open Diablito’s Cantina. The pair owns several nearby dining establishments, including Café Ventana, Chuy Arzola’s and Sanctuaria, under the name In Good Company.

 

Padda and Grimes said they have a love of competition and a vision to cooperate with other restaurants in Midtown. Initially, they encouraged Saint Louis University to fill the space with a restaurant of different ownership. However, after some discussion, Padda and Grimes said they decided to take the vacant building under their wing.

 

Padda said he aims to provide a casual, authentic dining experience in a cantina-like setting.  Inside, artwork dating back to 100 to 250 years, chandeliers, religious artifacts and woodcarvings can be expected. Barn wood and watercolors are used on the walls to reinforce the concept of spirits and sustenance. Laced with double meaning, “spirits” refers to the sugar skull tradition in Mexico, as well as alcohol. “Sustenance” refers to the belief that religion is needed to sustain oneself, just as food is needed to sustain oneself.

 

“If you got lost in Mexico City, and you had 25 or 50 pesos in your pocket and you were walking around in markets, this is the kind of food you would get. It’s authentic. It’s fresh. It’s real,” Padda said.

 

Compared to Chuy Arzola’s, the food at Diablito’s will be more authentic Mexican cuisine, as opposed to Tex-Mex style. Padda saw a problem with the large portion sizes at Chuy’s. Portions were very large and a great amount of food went to waste. But consistent with the owners’ principles, the ingredients at all of their restaurants are fresh, and the meat is cooked on location.

 

As for now, Chuy’s will temporarily stay open, but the long-term fate of Chuy’s, located in the Coronado, is unknown. In Good Company is currently working on several other projects in the area, and it has not made any concrete decisions about keeping the Tex-Mex restaurant open.

 

With a full bar equipped to seat 160 customers, the drink menu proves vital to Diablito’s success. Consistent with the taste of real Mexico, the bar will feature tequila-oriented drinks – a variety of infusions in which the tequila is imperceptible.

 

Although Diablito’s will have a full bar, they are about food and liquor, not getting drunk.

 

“We aren’t there to foster the concept of heavy drinking,” Padda said.

 

Diablito’s will not be a typical college bar. It will cater to the college crowd, but like Sanctuaria and Café Ventana, an expected 60 to 75 percent of customers will not be in college. Serving such clientele enables steady profit all year round. Padda and Grimes said that the general public will be greatly welcomed to Diablito’s, especially those looking for a cutting-edge experience.

 

This innovative mindset is demonstrated in Chicken Drops, which will take place every Friday. Adopted from Belize, participants gather around a large Bingo board on the ground of the outdoor patio. The tradition calls for blowing on the chicken’s bottom, causing the chicken to run around the board and defecate. The Bingo spot where the chicken excretes determines the winner of a $100 cash prize, to which all participants contribute.

 

The restaurant will have a large fire pit located on the back patio. The pit can be reserved for private parties or used publicly, promoting a community atmosphere.

 

“We like to create niches. We like to create places for people to be and give them interesting things to visualize. Every little niche has a lot of thought that went behind it. Each alcove has its own persona,” Padda said. “There’re all kinds of little subtleties that are woven into it.”

 

In Good Company fosters the belief that people visit dining establishments to create a sense of community and to be with other people. Padda and Grimes said that In Good Company hopes to create a fun environment for people to interact, socialize and have a good time. They have proven to be successful. Their Latin tapas restaurant Sanctuaria ranks in the top 50 restaurants in the country for late-night dining.

 

 

Renovation of the property has taken longer than expected because of unforeseen issues with the building. As a result, the walls were stripped bare to expose brick, and the owners decided the best strategy would be to take extra time to ensure the work is done properly. At present, the flooring is in the process of completion, and the kitchen needs additional time to be renovated.

 

Within the month, Diablito’s Cantina can be expected to open its doors and start this process.

 

Junior Colin Pajda lives in The Village apartments, which overlook Diablito’s, and he said he thinks that the renovation of the building strengthens the city.

 

“It will be awesome to fill the empty building. I think people will feel safer walking past a restaurant than just another vacant building,” Pajda said. “It’s exciting to see our little piece of the city coming alive, and I hope more of the vacant buildings start to fill up.”