El Amigo Pepe opens concession stand in Niles Riverfront Park

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Amanda VanDePutte and Al Coultas order burritos. The menu features fan favorites, such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Amanda VanDePutte and Al Coultas order burritos. The menu features fan favorites, such as burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

When Amanda VanDePutte and Al Coultas learned El Amigo Pepe would be back in Niles Tuesday, they made sure to stop by for a taste.

“It’s is true authentic Mexican, but that’s why we like it,” Coultas said.

The two Niles residents were the first customers when the concession stand opened around 11 a.m. in Riverfront Park near Wonderland Cinema.

Both purchased burritos — an item they say they have missed since the popular Mexican restaurant closed its location on South 11th Street in Niles last year. (Another Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Don Chepe, has since opened in the same location at 1140 S. 11th St.)

The Mendez family, which ran El Amigo Pepe for eight years, said they decided to close the restaurant in order to focus solely on catering and running a concession stand.

“We liked going there every once in a while. It’s great food,” VanDePutte said.

Followers of El Amigo Pepe will be happy to learn that the food stand will be in Niles on a weekly basis.

Gabby Moralez, whose father Jose “Pepe” Mendez created the restaurant, said the plan is to park the food stand in Riverfront Park each Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday in the spring and summer. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a break between 3 to 5 p.m.

El Amigo Pepe won’t be open this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, she said, because of poor weather in the forecast.

That’s why they rolled into the park Tuesday.

The best way to know if the restaurant will be in Niles is to follow it on Facebook, where workers post up-to-date hours and locations.

“We are going to test it out for awhile,” Moralez said.

Although the full menu won’t be available, Moralez said the concession stand would offer the most popular items, like burritos, quesadillas, tacos and chips and salsa.

Combos will also be available.

Customers can text an order to (269) 683-1942 and pick it up 30 minutes later.

Cash and debit/credit cards are accepted.

Moralez said it was important for the family to maintain a presence in Niles.

“We love cooking. … The community of Niles has always been there for us so we want to continue to be there for them as well.”

El Amigo Pepe also offers catering and its concession stand at Big Bear Auctions.

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