A new coat of paint and a new sign might not make a new restaurant -- unless it's on Federal Boulevard, where the food may not change much, but the names and bright colors shift like the oily surface of a bowl of menudo. On a recent trip up the strip, we spotted several new identity changes -- as well as the return of Santiago's.
After two months of renovations, the Santiago's at 2505 Federal Boulevard has reopened. It now has an expanded dining room and a prettier drive-up window -- although it's still so close to the street that queuing cars spill out from the parking lot into southbound traffic. Just a few blocks south, Los Agaves appears to have changed its name to El Luchador Sports Bar and Grill, although it's difficult to tell: The old Los Agaves signs are still up along with the new El Luchador banner. One thing is certain: Lovers of Los Agaves breakfast burritos will have to find a new source, as the kitchen is definitely no longer open for breakfast.
Across the street, in a building that's seen many Mexican restaurants come and go -- including a failed second location of El Noa Noa and, more recently, the short-lived El Rincon Tropical -- Tacos El Paisa has tidied up the property and added professional signage. It's been selling tacos for about two months, according to an employee who confirmed that the spot is an independent restaurant with no ties to other taquerias (or similarly named bakeries) in town.
On the south end of Federal, the ramshackle Carnitas Estilo Michoacan has changed from bright green to bright blue, and a new (but already peeling) sign announcing a name change to Taqueria la Veracruzana has been slapped on over the old sign. The facade still sports familiar menu banners and a covered front porch that seems perilously close to collapsing into the street. Although the cuisine of Veracruz is considerably different than that of Michoacan, the new restaurant's Facebook page still seems to be offering carnitas by the pound and other menu items that look similar to what was on offer before the change. Let's hope the new owners have cleaned up the interior but haven't done a thing to Michoacan's amazing salsa bar.
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In case that's gone, too, you can get your salsa fix at the other Carnitas Michoacan, at Federal and Evans, which shows no signs of change.