The area just northeast of Das Bevo has become a hotbed of Mexican restaurants.
In recent years, a number of restaurants have left south city's traditionally "Mexican" district for new territory a bit further south. Blame the higher rents on Cherokee Street — or, perhaps, simply credit individual entrepreneurs finding greener pastures in a different part of town. Either way you slice it, the result is the same: nearly a half-dozen Mexican restaurants are now located within just a few blocks of each other on Gravois, in the shadow of the Bevo Mill.
Next month, the people behind these restaurants plan to host their coming-out party in the neighborhood that takes its name from the historic windmill. They're calling it the Mexico Independence Day Festival, and they're planning Sunday, September 16, as a full afternoon and evening of entertainment, music and vendors.
Oh, and they're shutting down traffic on Gravois — for what they say is the first time ever.
Nancy Diaz, who owns Mariscos el Gato with her husband Pedro
, acknowledges that shutting down one of the city's major arteries was no easy feat; it's not like being back on Cherokee, where the narrow confines seemed perfectly designed for a street party. "It did take a little more time," she says. "But we're making it happen."
For the restaurants, the festival's mere existence feels like a great gift from the city. "It's a Mexican holiday, and so it means a lot to me that they're giving us this opportunity to celebrate it here," Diaz says. "We're really grateful."
And while it might seem like having so many restaurants serving similar cuisines in just a few short blocks would lead to stress and competition, Diaz says it's been just the opposite. "Ever since we opened, everyone's been so nice to us," she says. "We're working as a team." And since Mariscos el Gato has been packed almost since the day it moved into the old Luna Lounge, its overflow crowd has benefited its neighbors, which include Mi Lindo Michoacan
, Mariachis 2 and Salinas 2.
The group has permission to shut Gravois from Taft to Gannett streets from noon to 10 p.m. on the Sunday in question. Diaz promises a mechanical bull, games for the kids, live music and booths with a host of great Mexican food items, from tacos to churros. (Admission will be free, but you'll pay for food and drink.)
Diaz says they're still looking for sponsors; those interested should reach out. For everybody else, mark your calendars now; this will be a different kind of street party for Bevo Mill, a neighborhood that's gone from being German to Bosnian and now has a decidedly Mexican flavor. Fiesta!
Editor's note: A previous version of this story wrongly identified one of the parameters of the closing. The street is Gannett. We regret the error.
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