ELLSWORTH — The restaurant business is a notoriously difficult one, with thin profit margins and high start-up costs.
So sticking around for 40 years is a feat, and staff at The Mex plan to celebrate their accomplishment for a good long time: “40 days for 40 years,” said General Manager Aziza Daigle. “We’ll be having dinner specials, drink specials and a few flashback pricing menus.”
The restaurant opened in May of 1979, after owner Bruce Wardwell returned from a trip to Mexico determined to bring some of the area’s cultural touches back with him.
“He brought tiles, masks and decor,” Daigle said. “He brought not just food but a whole cultural experience. We’ve been trying to uphold that since it happened.”
Daigle acknowledged that the restaurant has struggled in recent years. Wardwell, who is 72, was injured in an accident several years ago and has been largely hands-off.
“In the past several years the restaurant has definitely gone downhill,” Daigle said. “We have not the best reputation.” But Daigle, who was hired in January, plans to change that.
“It’s been a big process of hiring new staff so that the changes that need to be made could be made,” Daigle said. “It was status quo, but it needed to change.”
The revamped menu will have more vegetarian and gluten-free options, she said, and they still have “the best margarita in town.”
“We’re trying to show downtown and Ellsworth in general and the area that The Mex still has it going on,” Daigle said.
The menu is Mexican food for an American palate, Daigle said.
“Bruce calls it Mexican cuisine that is authentically different.” That means cheeseburger and steak burritos (“The customers are just loving it,” said Daigle), fish tacos with slaw and cilantro cream sauce and fish empanadas topped with guacamole.
For those wary of the heat, there’s no need to be worried, Daigle said.
“People think that Mexican food is spicy. It’s not spicy unless you want it to be spicy.”
Daigle said the food is “good, fresh sold food,” that doesn’t come from a freezer. “We don’t purchase ready-made food and microwave it,” Daigle said.
The celebration began on June 19 and will run through July, with gift card drawings each day. For more information, visit facebook.com/TheMexOfficial or call 667-4494.