Ithaca, N.Y. — The site of the recently closed Manos Diner off of Route 13 in Ithaca will be filled by a Mexican restaurant named “Old Mexico,” according to ownership.
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The new eatery is aiming to open up in the diner’s former location within the next two months.
“We’re looking for a full-experience Mexican restaurant — full bar, full menu,” says Fernando Aguirre, 31, who will own “Old Mexico” along with his brother and brother-in-law.
Among the planned menu items: burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, margaritas, tacos and the other expected Mexican food fare, according to Aguirre.
“We’ll do everything from parties to smaller tables, so it’ll be quick food, quick service,” Aguirre said in an interview on Friday.
Robert Leon, one of the co-owners of “Old Mexico,” also runs the Agaves Mexican Grill in Rhode Island. He said the Manos location and aesthetics are well-suited for what his family hopes to bring to Ithaca.
“I think the layout of the restaurant suits the name: It has an old rustic look, with the arches and the character of the roof,” Leon says. “We’re a family-owned business that takes great pride in what we do.”
Earlier this month, Manos Diner closed after 52 years in business. The iconic 24/7 hour joint was known by generations of Ithacans, and its sudden closure produced an outpouring of nostalgia and reminiscence.
“After 52 years, how much can the body take?,” Bill Manos, 78, said in an interview earlier this month. “It’s been a nice ride all these years, but it’s time to hang it up.”
Several of Manos’ employees told The Voice that they were angered by how Bill Manos suddenly left them without jobs some had held for decades.
The ownership of “Old Mexico” expects to employ about 30 people, according to Aguirre. Aguirre, 31, said that he’ll look at the resumes of Manos’ former employees but not give them preference in hiring.
Aguirre said he has 14 siblings — 8 men and 6 women — who all work in the foodservice industry. Joel Aguirre, the third co-owner of “Old Mexico,” owns “somewhere in the range” of 17 Mexican restaurants, according to Aguirre. (All but one of the eateries is in Ohio.)
Though owned by three relatives, the family’s restaurant in Ithaca will be primarily run by Fernando Aguirre, who selected the Manos location.
“I started looking and a couple other places but Manos was the one that felt the best, that felt right for us,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said he’s been working in restaurants since he washed dishes as an 11-year-old in the “El Campesino” restaurant in Marion, Ohio. Now, however, he says he looks forward to becoming part of the Ithaca community, noting he has enrolled his four young children — two boys and two girls — in the local school system.
“It takes a few years for a restaurant to be established, and then I normally move on — but now I’m here and at this one I want to stay,” he says. “And if my kids want to go to college one day, I can keep them here.”