It's the end of an era for Twin Cities Tex-Mex.
After a public struggle to keep its doors open, Pepitos Mexican Grill served its last guests on New Years Eve.
Though the community has rallied in support of the restaurant over the last few months, the cards were stacked against this long-time fixture of the South Minneapolis dining scene. Owner Joe Minjares has been battling pulmonary fibrosis since 2011, and with mounting medical bills and other financial burdens piling up, it was time for him to walk away.
Minjares penned a bittersweet farewell via Facebook, reflecting on the early days when the restaurant was called The Colonial Inn, and the customers were few and far between – until his wife made a suggestion.
"Sue said, 'Why don't you have your mom make some tacos?' I was a little skeptical but said okay," Minjares wrote.
Everything changed in 1975. The couple changed the restaurant's beer-and-pizza format to Tex-Mex and renamed it Pepitos. Minjares credits the community for building the place up and keeping it alive for more than 40 years.
"But then, YOU, came. I asked, YOU, if you'd ever tried a taco. YOU said no and I gave YOU one. The next week YOU came back and asked for another one but this time YOU brought a friend. Then your friend brought a friend. Then they brought their families. That's how it started for us," the post says.
He also thanked the "10,000 and 1 employees" who worked at the restaurant over the years.
"A special thanks to the crew that saw it all to the end. I told them we were closing and there were tears. I told them that if they went out and found other work that Sue and I would understand. None of them left. They stuck by me until the bitter end. I love you guys forever."
And for those who never got a chance to try his mom's cooking, Minjares says: "Believe what you hear about it. You don't know what you missed!"
So what will replace the Minneapolis institution? Heavy Table says it may reopen as a Sonora Grill.