For many people in Tyler, going to Gilbert’s El Charro was a tradition that they feared was over when the restaurant closed earlier this year.
But a new El Charro in Tyler has made some relieved they won’t have to give up all of their nostalgia.
“I’ve been coming to El Charro since I was about 7 years old,” said Jim Sulser, who dined at the new restaurant with his wife, Lisa, last week. “When the old one closed, it was a crushing blow. This is a tradition.”
The restaurant, El Charro on the Ridge, opened quietly last week.
“It’s been a mad house in a good way,” said owner Manny Vela, whose wife, Ana Maria Ramirez, is part of the family that opened the original restaurants. “There are still a few issues to work out. We’re glad we have a lot of fans, and most understand we’re still learning and correcting.”
Vela has operated five restaurants during his career and isn’t new to opening week issues. He’s confident they will be worked out, he said.
“When El Charro shut down, it was like a family member dying,” he said. “It was a very hard decision to close, and it was a very hard decision to open.”
Though the restaurant is in a new location, 6899 Oak Hill Blvd., in a shopping center just north of FRESH, there is still continuity with the old restaurants. The old sign hangs in the new restaurant. Half of the staff are seasoned El Charro veterans, and, of course, much of the food is the same (Vela noted that even if there wasn’t room for an old favorite on the new menu, the staff will still be able to cook it).
“People were so excited we have the same orange sauce,” said Mike Bentley, manager. “They see the same waitress, and they say, ‘Oh, I know her.”
New items on the menu include grilled salmon, chicken Caesar salad, shrimp enchiladas, stuffed chicken breast and queso fundido.
Many families have a tradition of coming to El Charro the day after Thanksgiving, Bentley said.
“We’ve seen generations come in since the ’50s,” he said.