A La Mexicana fills a void

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

The owners of the new restaurant, A La Mexicana, (from left to right) Evelia Maher and Doug Maher pose with chef and General Manager Parma Chavez, “Ocho” Chavez, and Demitre Rodriguez recently. A La Mexicana – which means the Mexican way – will hold its grand opening in Raymond today. (De Busk photo)

RAYMOND – A black and white photo hangs on the wall – a big-eyed girl is playing in her yard in Puerto Vallarta. The photograph captured chickens scratching under trees, a rope swing, and a child in movement within eyeshot of her home.

Evelia Maher (the girl in the photo) remembers her mother’s wonderful food in that home, and the family and friends who shared those meals in Mexico.

Evelia hopes to offer that brand of homespun hospitality and traditional food to area residents who come sit at the tables of the new restaurant she and her husband Doug are launching.

After months of preparing the building and years of dreaming about starting a Mexican restaurant, A La Mexicana will open today.

The restaurant is located in Raymond’s business district, in the building that formerly housed JD’s Firehouse and Rosco’s Rocking Buffet. A new sign in the parking lot reflects that a different type of cuisine will be offered to customers.

The Mahers believe the style of cooking that A La Mexicana will provide is what people are craving.

“The closest Mexican restaurant is Westbrook,” Doug said. “And, the other way, toward Bridgton, there aren’t any Mexican restaurants. Many of those restaurants cater to the tourists, offering seafood and expensive prices.”

“There really aren’t any low-priced, family-oriented Mexican restaurants in the Lake Region area,” he said.

Doug and Evelia agreed that not only does the Mexican restaurant fill the void of south-of-the-border recipes, but also eating out is something people will aim to fit into their budgets.

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What: Grand opening of A La Mexicana

Where:  1227 Roosevelt Trail, Raymond

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

(Wintertime hours)

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“People are still going to live. Couples are still going on dates. People are still going to treat themselves to a nice meal out,” Doug said, of the trend for Americans to spend money eating out — even during tough economic times.

One of the Mahers’ objectives, when they decided to open a restaurant, was keeping the prices low on many of the menu items — and making it even more enticing for local pocketbooks.

“Our prices are affordable, especially for bringing the whole family out to eat. We have dinners under $10, plus a kids’ menu,” Doug said.

A La Mexicana has not been an overnight plan, they said.

The couple — along with Evelia’s co-workers at another area restaurant — has been discussing going into business for a few years. The Mahers’ friend, Parma Chavez, will wear the hats of “star chef” and general manager, Doug said.

“Years ago, we started talking about it and writing ideas down. We started thinking of different names for the restaurant. We started creating a menu,” Doug said. “You know, we had to take baby steps first.”

The menu “will have traditional, delicious food,” he said.

Some food items on the menu will include: homemade chips and salsa from “a secret recipe,” desserts like fried ice cream and flans, fajitas, and a sampler platter for those who cannot decide. One of the platforms will be to deliver a very affordable lunch menu. To broaden the customer base, the restaurant will also offer vegetarian food.

It was a time-consuming task to ready the kitchen to crank out the food on the menu, Doug said.

“We needed a lot of updated equipment,” he said.

“We worked hard cleaning. Everybody is very thorough. Everybody takes a lot of pride in our work, and what people think when they walk in the door,” he said.

When the time came to see what commercial property was available that would be suitable for the future restaurant, the entrepreneurs eyed the Raymond and Windham area.

“Ideally, we wanted to serve these communities, this area,” Doug said.

“This (building lease) came available around August or September while we were seriously looking at a place in Freeport. This is while we were searching,” he said. “We live about 15 minutes from here. So, it is kind of perfect.”

“We contacted the owners of the building. They are friendly, nice people and worked with us. They are local, too,” Doug said.

The couple commissioned local artist, Steven Brooks, who lives in Naples, to design the art that depicts traditional Mexican images.

“We are supporting the locals,” Evelia said.

Evelia’s painting of a chili pepper was one of the first pieces of art to find a home — after sunshine yellow paint was applied on the walls in late November. She painted the chili pepper a few years ago — channeling her creative energy into that dream of opening a restaurant.

While the new business might become a second home, it is a ‘family’ Evelia is happy to be around.

“We are family-oriented. We are also a family.

We are all like a family. Most of us have worked together for two years at another restaurant,” she said. “We live here in Raymond. Doug grew up in Bridgton.”

“We are inviting our local people to try our food,” Evelia said.

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