My first impulse for writing a column welcoming the 20-teens was to do a retrospective on the 20-aughts. But rather than a list of trends, restaurants and chefs that made that decade interesting, I decided to discuss a single story that took almost the entire decade to come together. That's the story of Laredo's Mexican Restaurant, which now is the story of Casa De Los Milagros Mexican Restaurant. After five years and two contractors, the enormous hacienda on N Classen Boulevard is open for business but with a new name. But after all he's been through, owner Julian Gonzalez doesn't care what the place is called as long as people come in for a visual and flavorful tour of Mexico. Halfway through the aughts, Laredo's co-owner and general manager, Julian Gonzalez, whose bloodlines connect him to the city's first Mexican restaurant chain, El Charro, and its spinoff, El Charrito, thought he'd hit the jackpot. Chesapeake was in the midst of buying up property around its campus, and Laredo's was in the target area. Though the transaction meant the end of the old location on NW 63 and its lovely patio, it did leave Gonzalez and his father, Pepe, with significant cash. After careful consideration, the family decided to reopen its second restaurant. The first restaurant was Pepe's in Edmond, which opened in 1986. Early estimates in 2005 were for the new doors to open in six to eight months. Those estimates were a little off. Laredo's wouldn't open at 5111 N Classen Blvd. until fall 2009. That's not a typo: five years. For most of those years, the gigantic blue sphere that sits atop the restaurant peered over the Interstate 44 railing, causing passers-by to wonder whether it was going to serve cheap enchiladas on Wednesdays or launch toward Mars to search for signs of life. Though countless restaurants opened and closed during Laredo's hiatus and many people wondered whether it ever would open, open it did in September. And just as quickly as it breathed the sweet air of life again, Laredo's was gone forever. That's because just a few months after Laredo's shuttered in 2005, Cantina Laredo opened in the Penn Square Mall space previously occupied by Garcia's and Kamber's before that. While the name isn't exactly the same, Cantina Laredo does have corporate money and thinking behind it. It's an upscale concept owned by Consolidated Restaurant Operations, which also runs El Chico. Gonzalez said he was threatened with a lawsuit if he didn't change the name of his restaurant. "We probably would've won in court, but it's cheaper for us to just change the name." The new name, Casa De Los Milagros, not only is better but better suited for the space and backstory. "It means house of miracles," Gonzalez said. A walk through the enormous hacienda-style building shows it is an architectural wonder. "Mexico is an enormous country," Gonzalez said. "I wanted this place to be like a walking tour of the different regions." While construction mostly is finished, the signature patio is being tweaked before spring. The menu is the next major undertaking. An already large menu with standard Okie-Mex offerings and a smattering of traditional Mexican dishes, such as mole and Caldo de Res, is due additional entrees from the interior of Mexico. "We're working on Cochinita Pibil from the Yucatan and Camarones Diablo from the coast," Gonzalez said. "I want this place to not only tell a story with its interiors but also with what's on the plate." With a more ambitious menu in the works, it'll be a miracle if it doesn't succeed. Find, rate and review more Oklahoma City restaurants on Wimgo.com
NewsOK.com has disabled the comments for this article.