Israel Trevino has been trying to get back to Colorado since he left in 2000 and returned home to Texas, where he opened two outposts of La Playa Mexican Cafe in Harlingen and Austin. Those successful operations allowed him to explore possibilities for another location, and he settled on Centennial -- where a third La Playa recently opened at 7685 East Arapahoe Road.
"I went to school at CSU and fell in love with the area," says Trevino. "I ran out of tuition money so I had to go back and finish in Texas. I finished up at Texas State with a finance degree. I have been dreaming about coming back and finally realized that dream five weeks ago when we opened up, so we're really excited to be here."
Trevino held a soft opening for La Playa and has been using the past month or so to iron out the kinks and educate the staff on the 119 menu items that La Playa will be featuring, including such staples as enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and fajitas -- a specialty, Trevino says -- as well as a stuffed avocado filled with meat, lightly breaded and fried. "Since we're from Texas, people call us Tex-Mex and I don't mind that so much just because there are not a lot of good Tex-Mex restaurants around here," he adds. "A lot of our food is inspired by the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf Coast. We have a lot of seafood items on the menu and we have a lot of items from interior Mexico."
Trevino grew up in Houston in a family that has always been in the restaurant business. He started washing dishes and bussing tables for his dad when he was fourteen and opened his first restaurant with the help of his father in 2006. "If anything good comes out of Texas, it's food," says Trevino. "So we're really proud of our food and we're really proud of our product."
Trevino sold his Austin restaurant once he decided to relocate his family to Colorado, bringing two chefs and one manager along with him. Meanwhile, his brother is running the restaurant in Harlingen, which is near South Padre Island.
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Trevino is planning a grand opening party on May 17 that will feature 99-cent house margaritas, live music and free items from 1800 Tequila.
"I think we're different from any other Mexican restaurant in the area," says Trevino. "Our margaritas are not like any you will taste in Denver. I know that for a fact because we have to special-order the product from Texas because I can't find a vendor that offers the sweet and sour we use. You're not going to find 50 percent of the items we offer anywhere else."