New restaurant opens with a familiar Mexican menu in the old Chevy's Fresh Mex space

New restaurant opens with a familiar Mexican menu in the old Chevy's Fresh Mex space

The restaurant building on Fife Street is once again home to a Mexican restaurant.

Tonala Mexican Restaurant opened Saturday in a building readers still call “the old Chevy’s Fresh Mex.”

That building has been vacant more than it’s been occupied over the last five years.

Chevy’s Fresh Mex served its tableside guacamole and Mexican menu there from 1998 to 2012.

The building was empty until the short-lived NYP Bar and Grill opened there in 2016 and abruptly closed due to bankruptcy in 2017.

Tonala is a second restaurant for Miguel Contreras, his wife Connie, and their two children.

They opened their first Tonala Mexican Restaurant in Spanaway in 2015.

Here’s a first look. It’s this paper’s policy to avoid criticism of food and service in a restaurant’s first month.

Tonala dining room 1

The rear dining room at Tonala Mexican Restaurant in Tacoma.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

Owners: Miguel and Connie Contreras opened their first El Patio Mexican restaurant in Pierce County in 1995, followed by a second location in 1997 and a third in Yelm two years later. They sold the three about seven years ago but decided they needed a new project.

The name: They named their new restaurant project after a city in Jalisco to which the family has a connection.

“My wife went to college in Guadalajara and she loved Tonala. Every time we go to Mexico we go to Tonala. It’s a beautiful little town,” said Contreras.

Tonala dining room 5

The bar area of Tonala Mexican Restaurant.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

The space: Expansive space with room for 160. A roomy bar at the front of the restaurant with two tables for large groups (seating 8-10 diners each). The all-ages seating carries the same layout NYP Bar had. Booths line the entry all the way back to a large dining area with four-seat tables and more booths. A rear private dining area can handle more than 20 diners.

Tonala dining room 2

The seating is cushy at Tonala Mexican Restaurant.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

Seating: Ultra comfortable seats with well-padded booths and scoop-back chairs built for lounging in the main dining room.

Decor: More modern than the cantinas of yesteryear with dramatic drop lighting, polished concrete floors and sophisticated wood and metal accents. If you’re looking for a local comparison, it looks something like the El Toro on Canyon.

Tonala salsa

A duo of salsa is served alongside tortilla chips at the beginning of a meal at Tonala Mexican Restaurant.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

Dinner menu: Huge selection of the greatest hits of Mexican-American family dining with an endless selection of street tacos ($8.99 to $12.99), burritos ($12.99 to $13.99), fajitas ($13.99 to $18.99), enchiladas ($12.99), quesadillas ($9.50 to $14.99), salads ($10.99 to $14.99), combination platters ($8.99 to$13.99) and specialties such as molcajete ($17.99) and chile rellenos made with pasilla peppers ($15.99).

Also, a selection of more than 30 grilled and slow-cooked chicken, pork, beef and seafood dishes ($13.99 to $18.99). A full bar with cocktails and beer.

More menu: Lunch menu available all day for seniors 55+ and includes combination plates ($8.99 to $10.99), 10 entree plates ($9.99 to $12.99), plus burritos ($7.99 to $9.59) and soups and salads ($7.99 to $9.99). Kids meals include 11 choices ($4.59 to $5.99). Numerous vegetarian options listed on the menu.

Tonala street tacos 2

Carnitas street tacos dressed with cilantro and onions at Tonala Mexican Restaurant.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

Get the: Street tacos. A plate of four cinnamon-spiked carnitas, with fatty edges and a crisp-fried exterior, came atop doubled-up corn tortillas with sliced radishes, fresh chopped cilantro and onions ($8.99). Add-on beans and rice ($6) arrived well seasoned. The beans carried a coating of yellow and white cheeses, the rice studded with bell peppers.

Tonala menudo 1

A bowl of menudo, served Saturdays and Sundays only, from Tonala Mexican restaurant.

Sue Kidd [email protected]

Weekend soup: Menudo and pozole on Saturday and Sunday only. Menudo arrived as a chile-spiked broth (on the mild side) with slippery pieces of well-handled tripe, a condiment tray with chile pepper, oregano and onions, plus soft and crispy corn tortillas for dunking ($12.99).

Tonala Mexican Restaurant

Where: 3702 S. Fife St., Tacoma

Info: 253-507-8469,

Hours: Serving lunch and dinner daily. Open at 11 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays.

Spanaway location: 22225 Mountain Hwy East, Spanaway; 253-375-7333

Published at Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:22:54 +0000

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