BRANDON — H. Joseph Cárdenas remembers growing up in Tecate, Mexico, watching his mother, Doña Maria, operate as many as nine quaint restaurants in Baja California in the 1960s.
She would wedge a broomstick to prop open windows in her taquerias and sell tacos as a street vendor from 6 a.m. until midnight in her roadside shanties to support eight children.
Cárdenas, a Florida resident for the past three decades who has lived in the Brandon area for 15 years, has enjoyed success in the medical and pharmaceutical fields since 1983 and currently acts as president and director of project development for Moore Clinical Research.
With business going strong, he thought it was time to honor his mother, who died of breast cancer in 2005, in a way she would appreciate.
"I decided I was ready to do something fun," Cárdenas said. "Something was missing. It was time to pay homage to my mother."
Cárdenas expects to open his first restaurant in her name, Taqueria Doña Maria, a Baja-style Mexican eatery, on June 30 at 865 Lithia Pinecrest Road near the intersection of Lumsden Road. For Cárdenas, the restaurant is an extension of his family, down to the last detail. He commissioned murals for his walls — all tell stories from his childhood — and he picked out everything from the tabletops to the Mexican tile.
His brother, Jaime, and sister, Martha, will work at the restaurant. The pair of siblings recently took a trip from Alabama to Miami sampling Mexican fare along the way. Cárdenas thinks the fish and steak tacos on corn or flour tortillas will provide a competitive advantage in the Brandon area.
"I don't think there is anything to compare it to," Cárdenas said. "Everything is made fresh, and we show the food in front of you."
Taqueria Doña Maria is projected to be able to seat 60 diners inside, including a private section for group parties, and 30 on the patio. Cárdenas said all food items will be priced below $10. In keeping with his wine country upbringing, wine and beer — including Tecate — will be available as well.
Cárdenas said he chose the location for its new vibe and outdoor seating capabilities. But ultimately, it's all about his mother, who died at the same time Hurricane Katrina was making landfall in New Orleans. Cárdenas said he was so involved with her funeral planning in Mexico that he was late learning the devastating news about Katrina, but will always remember Doña Maria.
"She would always say, 'Don't accept mediocrity,' " Cárdenas said. "If the food is cold, or if there is a problem, you have to let them know.'"
The restaurant website, taqueriadonamaria.com, is expected to launch by opening day.
Causeway Boulevard Chick-fil-A reopens
The Chick-fil-A at Lake Brandon Village enjoyed a grand reopening and a 15-year celebration this week as owners Paul and Tammy Holmberg played host to a family fun night and showed off some renovations at the 11325 Causeway Blvd. location.
Customers who have missed patronizing this location since it closed in May will notice there are now two drive-through lanes as well as a dual-line kitchen — one for the drive-through and one for counter orders.
"We wanted to be able to keep up with the volume," said Tammy Holmberg, who also was Brandon's honorary mayor in 2008.
The Holmbergs also commissioned some new interior design changes that meld a retro look and modern functionality. There are new counters so employees can move more freely to provide service in the dining area, and more seating has been added near the play area.
Also, a new wall has been installed near the registers, forming a "quiet area" where customers can enjoy Wi-Fi away from the main floor.
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