Fiesta Acapulco

Six years after Acapulco became a Newburgh dining staple, owners Melvin and Blanca Ortez open a new landmark restaurant serving fresh Mexican fare
Fiesta Acapulco in Newburgh offers fresh, authentic Mexican dishes such as Yucatan shrimp.

On either side of the entrance to Fiesta Acapulco, a Mexican restaurant in Newburgh, lies a message carved into a slab of stone. “Living our dreams,” it reads. The brand-new, 6,000-square-foot restaurant and packed parking lot testify to the success of owners Melvin and Blanca Ortez, who arrived in the United States years ago in search of the American dream. With a lakefront patio for outdoor dining, an expanded menu, a new Web site, and even a new name, Fiesta Acapulco — the couple’s fourth restaurant — opened in July.

In 1993, Melvin left his home in Honduras and settled in Houston, where he took a job at a seafood restaurant and later was transferred to the Nashville area to train cooks. There, he met Blanca, who hailed from the Jalisco region of Mexico. The couple married in 1999, and during the early 2000s, Melvin managed Mexican restaurants in Nicholasville, Ky. Finally, the couple took a leap of faith and opened their first Acapulco restaurant in 2003 in Newburgh’s Apple Center. A La Grange, Ky., establishment followed the next year, and they opened a North Green River Road location in 2006.

The new Fiesta Acapulco, which replaced the Apple Center restaurant, stemmed from a desire for a better location and more traffic. The lot at the intersection of Bell Road and High Pointe Drive, across the street from Newburgh’s new Wal-Mart, fit the bill, says Melvin. He built the restaurant from the ground up, gaining 1,000 square feet (mostly in kitchen space), adding an outdoor patio, and incorporating a children’s playroom with a flat-screen television and a painted underwater scene mural. The coupled poured an estimated $1.4 million into Fiesta Acapulco: “But it’s worth it,” says Melvin. “It’s a much better location. It’s beautiful where we are. We really like it.”

Although I previously had dined at Acapulco’s Green River Road location, I was eager to experience the Ortez family’s new venture. I arrived with Stephanie Roberts, a close friend from the University of Evansville who now is the executive director of HOLA, a local nonprofit reaching out to the Latino community. Born in Brazil to a Bolivian mother and an American father, she grew up eating many of the traditional dishes found on Fiesta Acapulco’s menu. “Acapulco is so good,” she told me, “and very authentic.” She launched into a good-natured conversation in Spanish with the hostess and waiters as I admired the bustling restaurant’s décor. Behind the hostess station is a colorful beach scene mural with parrots in palm trees and swordfish leaping from the water. A separate bar area echoes the bright color scheme, and diners sit in carved booths and leather chairs with woven wooden bottoms. Children drifted from their parents’ tables into the playroom to watch Finding Nemo. (Melvin and Blanca’s own children, 8-year-old Ivan and 7-year-old Edwin, look forward to weekends, when they accompany their parents to the restaurant. They often spot their classmates from Newburgh’s St. John the Baptist Catholic School.)

After settling into a corner booth, we ordered the restaurant’s Gold Margarita on the rocks. The margarita achieved that refreshing, often-elusive balance between tart lime and biting tequila. Fiesta Acapulco’s drink menu also spotlights nearly two dozen tequilas, an ample selection of Mexican and domestic beers, and various other adult beverages. To kick off the meal, we shared an appetizer of “Chori Queso Fundido,” a cheese dip with Mexican sausage, served bubbling in a hot skillet. It’s made from Chihuahua cheese, a soft, white Mexican cheese that melts into a succulently smooth dip.


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