After losing its 18-year home several months ago to a building remodel, Moctezuma’s is set to open its new Gig Harbor Mexican restaurant later this spring. Operations manager Bernie Garcia, son of founder Arturo Garcia, who opened the first Moctezuma’s on South Tacoma Way in 1978, said progress on the Gig Harbor location has been slowed by permitting issues. Moctezuma’s new location will be just across the street from its previous location next to Safeway.
While Moctezuma’s sister restaurant in Tacoma plays to the concept of a traditional family style Mexican restaurant – complete with a Tex-Mex menu – expect Gig Harbor’s new Moctezuma’s to be a more sophisticated looking restaurant. Garcia is working with Sue Genty, a designer who has created the interiors for South Sound restaurants Blazing Onion, Paddy Coyne’s and the now defunct Zato Grill.
“I went to Mexico, picked out furniture and tiles, light fixtures and design elements that will be incorporated,” said Garcia. Metal artists are creating custom pieces in a dining room that Garcia described as, “an integration of authentic, quality Mexican with a little bit of a contemporary feel and touch to it.” On his shopping trip to find artwork and fixtures, Garcia and Genty worked via email and text to agree on just the right look.
Diners may not recognize the 5,000 square-feet space that formerly housed the Harbor Monsoon, which closed last Fall. Garcia said construction crews have changed the footprint of the restaurant – creating a larger bar space that will seat about 60 and room for another 100 (approximately) in the dining room.
So will this new restaurant be so sophisticated, it no longer will appeal to Gig Harbor’s core restaurant diners – families with kids? “Not at all,” said Garcia. “It’s not going to be a modern Mexican restaurant, it’s still family style. That’s Gig Harbor, it’s families, and we want to keep it family friendly.” In other words, diners won’t find a bar scene something like Tacoma’s Matador. Expect to find a menu just for kids and many of the approachable Tex-Mex menu items that always have been served at Moctezuma’s. However, Garcia said more sophisticated fare will be served right alongside the Tex-Mex standards. He’ll serve food that harkens to Jalisco, from where the Garcia family hails. “We’ve got the same menu we’ve had in the past, most of the menu is going to be what we had before, but adding more items that are more authentic that you wouldn’t see at a typical Mazatlan or Azteca type restaurant,” he said.
Arturo Garcia, who founded the restaurant, is semi-retired. Bernie Garcia now runs the restaurant with his sister Maribel Arias, who will manage the Gig Harbor Moctezuma’s after it opens. Arturo Garcia founded Moctezuma’s in a tiny location on South Tacoma Way in 1978. He moved the restaurant a decade later to 56th and Tyler, then opened the Gig Harbor Moctezuma’s in 1994.
Where: 4628 Point Fosdick Drive N.W., Gig Harbor
Opening: Late spring 2012
Another location: 4102 S. 56th St., Tacoma, 253-474-5593 or moctezumas.com