Last November, the Original Lindo Michoacan on Desert Inn was already only permitted 25 percent occupancy as the state tried to contain COVID-19 from spreading when a sinkhole opened in the floor of the dining room. Leaking pipes caused the sinkhole and forced the 31-year-old restaurant to close to make repairs. Nearly 80 people temporarily lost their jobs.
Now nearly nine months later, the restaurant reopened with lines out the door and renovations to refresh the space that turn a negative into a positive.
Stephanie Barajas, the general manager and daughter of owner Javier Barajas, says aside from new floors throughout the restaurant, they made the bar bigger, added all stainless steel to the kitchen, and moved the station for making tortillas by hand to the front. “We put it in the entrance so when guests come in, that’s the first thing they’re seeing,” she says.
New booths, tables, and chairs and fresh paint throughout with traditional Mexican masks from Tocuaro, Mexico, and pottery, some clay, some colorful ceramic, from Capula, Mexico, decorate the walls, ready for customers to return. “Everything is new, besides the structure of the building,” Barajas says, fresh off seating a group of 20 walking into the restaurant for an early lunch.
The restaurant’s famous carnitas, slow cooked with oranges, return, as does the steak al cognac with its mushrooms, onions, sour cream, and cognac sauce, influenced by the French occupation of Mexico, and a dish Barajas’ grandmother used to make. “If someone was going to come in for the first time, they should try something that they wouldn’t necessarily think of eating at a Mexican restaurant like our camarones Sarandeados or our pollo con rajas y crema, which is a really delicious chicken dish with cream and pasilla peppers.”
Fortunately, many of the old staff members returned, too. “One of the good thing about our restaurant is that we’ve been open for 31 years and a lot of our employees have been working for us for 20 years, 10 years,” she says. “A lot of them came back — cooks, waiters, bussers, bartenders — so that actually made us really happy that probably 70 percent came back.”
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