Mexican restaurant to relocate to former Smokin’ D BBQ building

Published 5:19 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

NILES — A popular Mexican eatery will soon be moving to its new home.

Taqueria Don Chepe, 1140 S. 11th St. is gearing up to move to a new location at 1668 E. Main St., the former site of Smokin’ D Barbecue.

The family-owned restaurant first opened its doors Dec. 14, 2015. Peter Mendoza, who runs the restaurant with his sister, Magnolia, said they plan to open in the new location Monday, Dec. 26, pending inspections. 

“It’s been a good journey so far,” Mendoza said. “I’m hoping that we can continue to bring more customers to the new location.”

If unable to open Dec. 26, the restaurant will shoot for Monday, Jan. 2. According to Mendoza, the decision to relocate was due to both the restaurant and neighboring Green Stem Provisioning seeing an increase in business in recent years, resulting in fewer parking spaces for customers.

“This is a great location but we have a lot of customers. We still have some customers that call in the orders and on busy days, they’ll call us and say they can’t stop by because there’s no parking,” he said. “The order gets left behind so it’s our loss. At our new location, we will have more parking spots.”

Mendoza’s father, Jose “Don Chepe” Mendoza, has been the main cook at the restaurant since it opened. His mother, Juana Blanco, assists Jose in the kitchen.

Mendoza said he discovered the 1668 E. Main building last year while out driving with his dad. The family then bought the building outright and thus will not have to pay rent like they do at their current location. In addition to more parking, the building offers the family the option to expand it if need be.

While the family had planned to relocate earlier this year, Mendoza said the ongoing employee shortage prevented them from doing so.

“We decided to wait and see, employees will come back. It hasn’t happened,” he said. “We just made the decision to make the switch over and just to accommodate our customers more than anything.”

With the new location able to seat 66 guests comfortably, Mendoza hopes to foster an authentic atmosphere and attract more sit-down guests. He said plans are in place to have regularly scheduled live music in the space.

“That’s something we wanted to do here but could not with the space being so limited,” he said. “It’s gonna give us plenty of space to move things around and have different environments.”
Barring changes, Taqueria Don Chepe’s last day at the South 11th Street location will be Friday, Dec. 23. Mendoza said the restaurant will be accepting applications for the new space.

“People want to have a fresh meal versus picking it up and driving somewhere and it gets cold by the time they get home. We’re all about freshness; our food is made daily from scratch. We’re really pushing to have a full crew again so that we can bring back the full-table service.”

Mendoza and his family look forward to Taqueria Don Chepe’s next chapter.

“My mother and father are happy because they hope we can get more demand. With the additional parking, people are going to come in more, so we’re prepared to have more demand.”