Hola Chela’s! Here’s the Latest Word … and It’s Good!

Exactly when Chela’s will be opening is the next big question on Dexter’s collective mind.  Here’s the scoop.

Dexter has been murmuring for years that what we need is a good Mexican restaurant to dilute the overpowering presence of pizza and pub food in our fair city.  After all, variety is the chipotle of life.

Rescue has come in the form of Chela’s Restaurant & Taqueria.  Incidentally, a taqueria is a Mexican restaurant specializing in tacos and burritos.  There might be a little redundancy in the name but we don’t care.  What we do care about is that Chela’s isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant.  It features flavorful, fresh-mex menu offerings made with fresh ingredients and loaded with natural flavor.

All set and ready to go.

But we’ve been teased.  It began a year ago when word got out that Chela’s had signed a lease for the old Foggy Bottom Coffee House space in the Country Market plaza.  The word at that time from owner Adrian Iraola was that they hoped to be open by December.

December came and went and the next word was to be open by April.  Then, it was Cinco de Mayo, the celebration commemorating the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire in 1862.  Of course!  What a perfect day for the opening of a Mexican restaurant!  But this date too, came and went.  Since then, all we’ve heard about Chela’s opening is “soon.”  But it’s been 4 months.   What’s up?

Well, it’s not like Iraola hasn’t had his hands full.  He opened the original Chela’s in 2012 on the corner of Liberty and Maple.  The restaurant was an instant success and created a buzz in the area.  Last year, he opened a second Chela’s in Ann Arbor’s old Jerusalem Garden location.  The campus store took off bigger than the first being chosen Best Taco in Michigan by MLive.  It was soon after opening his second location that Iraola signed the lease for his third location, in Dexter.

I caught up with Iraola behind the Dexter location a few weeks ago.  On his way to another meeting, he didn’t have time to talk.  Giving me his card, he told me to email him and “we’d go from there.”  But he’s a busy man and has not yet responded to my emails.  I changed tactics and checked in with workers at one of his other locations to see if they could tell me anything.

I was told that the Dexter location will be opening in a couple of weeks.  That sounded like the same old stiff-arm answer and told them so.  I asked for a specific date.  They then took a few moments to explain that the Iraolas have a son getting married on Sept. 15 and they want to have the reception in their new Dexter location.  There is not a specific opening date set, but it will be within days following the 15th.

Much of the delay for the Iraolas has been the result of navigating through the tricky and frustrating waters of obtaining various operating permits, and success brings its own set of challenges.  Expansion brings even more challenges.  Add to that some red tape and a wedding among other things, and it’s no surprise that there have been delays.  The good news is that Dexter will soon be getting its Mexican restaurant boasting the best tacos in Michigan.

And as I’m polishing off my delicious carne asada tacos for lunch, I’m ready for more and all I want to say to the Iraolas is, “Thank you for choosing Dexter.  We’ll try not to overwhelm you too much when you unlock the doors.”

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