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Mexicali Rosa’s

Mexicali Rosa's
It is known around Kingston as the black hole, the corner of doom, an address that few businesses dare touch, while those who’ve rolled the dice have paid the ultimate price. I am referring to the corner of Johnson and Ontario were countless independent restaurants and bars have come to die. 172 Ontario is a prime downtown location that’s a block away from City Hall, a stone’s throw away from the waterfront and in the company of Woodenheads, White Mountain and Frankie Pesto’s, so it does not make sense that so many attempts have failed. City records do not indicate that the earth beneath this address was once home to a cursed cemetery, hence there is no supernatural explanation.

I don’t think you need to be familiar with the finances of the latest failed attempts, specifically Johnny Mac ‘s family friendly restaurant, and Juice, a student oriented nightclub, to know that they were anything but successful. While both achieved mediocre buzz when they first opened their doors, neither had staying power in a downtown that already boasts dozens of family eateries, and Friday night meat markets. Even so, I do not believe that the presence of an additional downtown restaurant or watering hole is going to tip the fragile balance, but rather the food and bar industry is a ruthless beast. To achieve success in the restaurant game, one must have extensive experience, lot’s of capital and even more patience. A bit of luck wouldn’t hurt either.

When I saw that Mexicali Rosa’s was going to take their turn at the corner of doom and gloom, I thought that it was a no brainer. This franchise’s fiesta began in Ottawa in 1979, and they’ve since opened up 35 stores, making them Canada’s largest chain of Mexican-themed, casual-dining restaurants. Their restaurants are bursting with cliché sombreros and saddle blankets hanging on the walls, while sizzling fajitas, and ice-cold cervezas make up for the cheesy decor. Sure Kingston already has an authentic tex-mex restaurant located two blocks down the street, but the heads at Mexicali Rosa’s feel that this is the right location for the chain. On that note, the company has been on pace to open about 7 new franchises a year since 2003, thereby flooding Canada with their brand, which includes a cactus at every table. Although they may run the risk of over saturating the market, I’m predicting that corporate experience and deep pockets will translate into success for the new quesadilla on the block.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

11 thoughts on “Mexicali Rosa’s

  • March 2, 2008 at 1:56 am
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    Ah, but will the wait staff be as enthusiastic about sizzling fajitas and ice cold Corona’s as they are at Lone Star? I think not. And I bet they don’t have a big hat either.

  • March 4, 2008 at 1:14 am
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    Isn’t that the most annoying thing in the world? Even if you tell Lone Star you’ve been there before, they still recite the menu to you. One of these days I’m going to list off the specials before they get a chance.

  • March 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm
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    I’m really looking forward to this place opening. Right now if my wife want’s Mexi’s, we drive to Perth!

    I’m more of a fan of the Tex-Mex style like at Lonestar, but she’s into the more authentic mexican that Mexi’s serves.

    Any idea on when it’s opening the website says January 08?

    Isn’t it kind of ironic that it’s opening kitty-corner to it’s former location in Kingston (Now Frankie Pesto’s)?

    By the way, great site!

  • March 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm
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    Come to Tucson La Fuente and then tell me about Mexican food in Kingston. Lone Star and the Rose are a chronic gringo joke!

  • May 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm
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    I was just in Kingston this past weekend and Mexicali Rosa's has now closed!

    • May 19, 2010 at 5:29 pm
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      Sadly it has been closed for quite some time…well over a month if my memory serves me correctly. In any case, the closure proves yet again that the corner/location still cannot support a restaurant. Or at least, we haven't found the right business to take up residency there.

  • May 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm
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    I believe it's been closed since at least early last Summer, if not earlier. It didn't last very long at all, the curse continues…

    Trying to compete with LoneStar in Kingston is generally a bad idea, it's too well regarded/run/staffed.

  • May 19, 2010 at 11:13 pm
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    Yes its been closed for a long time, and a for sale sign on the building. Not sure if there is any demographic left to try there, from the student oriented Dr Girdy's (that was busy for awhile until they ran into noise by-law/liquor inspector problems) to more upscale steak house its done it all, briefly. You'd think people would prefer the patio to sitting on the edge of the road, though former operators complained the city not allowing a patio on the front sidewalk prevented people from coming down the street.

    I see a new one is opening in the cocamo space imminently

  • May 20, 2010 at 9:37 am
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    It is truly mind-boggling. Your original article above says it all – it almost doesn't make sense why business at this location are doomed for failure. Anyone have the big list of businesses that have taken a stab at it?

    I recall that the former Keg location up on Princess near Victoria(?) seemed to go through a similar spell. For different reasons no doubt than 172 Ontario, ventures appeared to be equally doomed there as well.

  • May 20, 2010 at 9:55 am
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    Unfortunately the last sentence in my post was an incorrect prediction of success. We had supper at Mexi's once while it was open. The fare was good, but thanks to my Queen's days, Lone Star has become something of an institution for us, and I suspect the same for many others. And so, we're more apt to give them our business. Otherwise, it's worth recalling how many times we saw an add for Mexi's on our local tv station, newspaper, or even online. Zero. Too many folks rely on the "if you build it they will come" mentality, however after the initial opening hype died down, what did Mexi's have? Word of mouth is a powerful, and when no one's talking about you, no one's going to keep your lights on. I am really sad to see yet another business fail at this location. With all the condo's, apts and a new hotel opening over on Block D, I would have thought that Mexi's would eventually enjoy success. Too bad the pockets weren't deep enough to keep it around for one more year.

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