If you can't stand the heat, get out of la cocina.
Back in 1995, Saul Sierra was a nineteen-year-old high-school drop-out and dishwasher when he opened Mi Cocina Grille at 4935 West 29th Avenue with the help of his mother. Three years later, he sold that location (it's now LaCocinata) and opened Mi Cocina Mexican Restaurant at 1600 West Belleview Avenue in Littleton; he added Mi Cocina Express at 137 West County Lane Road in 2007.
But Sierra still does a lot of dishes in these tough economic times - and they're getting tougher, because Sierra just got slapped with a federal lawsuit filed on March 22 in U.S. District Court in Denver by Mi Cocina Ltd., a Texas limited partnership that owns Tex-Mex, white-tablecloth outfits around Dallas, wants Sierra to stop using the name - and is prepared to take him to court to do so
"Plaintiff is, and at all times mentioned in this complaint, has been, engaged in the business of providing Mexican food restaurant services, presently including fifteen restaurants doing business under the name Mi Cocina," the complaint reads, "that have achieved enormous success based on the quality of its food and service. Plaintiff has expended large sums of money, resources and time to establish the valuable business and good will in the use of its 'Mi Cocina' trademark."
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"They've been knocking them off left and right," says Douglas Carlson, the landlord of the West Belleview Mi Cocina who's partnered with Siera on his other spot. "What I suspect they're trying to do is clear the deck."
For the record, the "good will" that the Texas Mi Cocina company cites includes being included on "The 10 Most Overrated Dallas Restaurants" list compiled last year by Westword's partner paper, the Dallas Observer. Here's one reader's take on the Texas Mi Cocina: "stupid. lame. pretty people. my wife & I go there for 'special' nights out w/out the kids. it sucks as much as my marriage."
If you stop by either of Sierra's two Mi Cocina outlets in Littleton, we can guarantee you that the chile relleno won't suck. But this lawsuit does.