That was the case for Margarita Vargas.
Her aspirations were realized Wednesday when she and her family opened their new restaurant, Los Molcajetes, at 5608 Milan Road in Perkins Township, where the former Brown Derby was once housed, behind Sonic.
(NOTE: Pictures of the new restaurant are posted on this website.)
The delicious, authentic-style food offered ranges from simple favorites such as tamales and tacos to fajitas and their namesake — molcajetes, a dish served in a molcajete (a Spanish word for tools used to grind food products) with shrimp, chicken, vegetables, cheese and a sauce you can wrap in a tortilla with beans and Mexican rice.
Vargas grew up in Mexico, where her mother taught her to cook.
Since then she had always dreamed of opening her own restaurant. It could have seemed impossible as she moved to the U.S. about 23 years ago, married and had three children, now aged 10, 17 and 22.
“She and my dad have always dreamed of having a restaurant,” said Vargas’ daughter Erica, who often speaks or translates for Margarita, whose first language is Spanish.
“She worked at Green Circle Growers and my dad worked as a welder in Greenwich. They found this place and immediately just started working with it, buying it and getting it ready for business. When we first got it, we thought it would be easy to get going, easy to fix a few things. But then so many problems came,” Erica said.
“It was a mess,” she added. “It literally was like someone just left everything.”
It appeared the former owners left behind many things from the old restaurant when they closed, with many things in disrepair, creating a larger project than the Vargases initially anticipated.
“There was a lot of cleaning,” Margarita Vargas said with a laugh.
After cleaning came the hand painting of the chairs and logo, laying of new carpet, designing and decorating, as well as fixing several things in the kitchen.
“They still kept going. They didn’t give up even though there were some really tough times,” Erica said.
The work began in February and finished about a week-and-a-half ago.
“My mom has always been taught to (strive) for what you want and that’s what she wants all of us to do. If it wasn’t for our family and our friends, I don’t think we would have gotten this far but I’m so proud of them,” Erica said.
“They’re always there for me. It’s just a good role model — to show that you have to put in the work for what you want. She has taught us really well — me, my older brother and younger brother.”
“You have to give your (best) to get what you want,” Erica translated for Margarita.
“I also comes back to your parents and how they raised you. Parents always want you to do your best. (My) parents wanted (me) to do (my) best and (I’ve) taught (my kids) if you want it, you have to fight for it and give your best.”
Margarita has high expectations for the restaurant.
“I want people to come here and try great Mexican food. I want everyone — the servers and the cooks — to be happy in working here,” Erica translated for Margarita. “Every restaurant is special. It’s just how much you put into it that means a lot. We put a lot in.”
The family already has plans for the future as well, with a Mexican spin on a Chinese hibachi grill.
“How Chinese restaurants have a little hibachi grill where you can watch them prepare it, we want to do that, but we want to turn (an) area into a place where you get street tacos. You’ll get to see a cook actually doing up the tacos right there,” Erica said. “We’re hoping to have it in the next few weeks. We just want people to come more and get everything started up.
So far business has been “really good and keeps getting better and better.” Margarita said, something the family feels is in a large part due to the great food, large portions and low prices.
“Everyone is welcome and we just want people to come and try great Mexican food,” Erica said.
To contact the restaurant call 419-502-0098.