Señor Tequila’s: A taste of Mexico in Golden Gate

If you envision the perfect Mexican restaurant, it may look a lot like Señor Tequila’s. Essentially, that is what Miguel and Elvia Fletes did for their new eatery on Collier Boulevard in Golden Gate.

Everything in the restaurant is new and spotless and has a distinct Mexican flavor, from the mural depicting agave fields, painted by a Mexican artist, to the handmade chairs, the tile floors and the booths with their custom-made pigskin seat coverings, branded with the Señor Tequila logo into the seat backs.

Open since January, Señor Tequila’s has already attracted a steady clientele of regulars.

“We’ve been coming here two or three times a week since they opened,” says Krissy Frank. She enjoyed a taco salad while her companion, Troy Frank, opted for the burrito special. “The food is excellent, and the service is fast. That’s important to us, ’cause we don’t have that long for lunch.”

Troy singled out the authentic Mexican atmosphere for praise, and added one other important reason that keeps them coming back — “the prices are good.”

Tucked behind Velocity and a Quizno’s, Señor Tequila’s can be hard to spot from the road, but Manager Sandra Guzman says that is only a short-term hurdle.

“We may be hard to find, but we’re worth it,” she says. “As soon as people find us, they never forget where we are located.”

In addition to all the good food and drink, another factor for people to seek out Señor Tequila’s are local (and international) entertainers Frankie Ray and Maryellen. They are performing at the restaurant four nights a week and bring along a legion of fans who love their feel-good music. The duo is live at Señor Tequila’s every night from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday.

People who are lured to the restaurant soon discover that Señor Tequila’s has two full bars. The patio bar outside has three plasma TVs and a fountain imported from Mexico. At the second, larger bar in the main dining room, Señor Tequila’s has raised the making of margaritas to an art and a science.

The bar stocks more than two dozen varieties of tequila — “any brand you will find in the U.S. or in Mexico,” says Guzman.

The owners come from Jalisco state on Mexico’s central Pacific coast, renowned for agave azul, the plant that produces the highest quality tequila and Mezcal, and they grow agave on their own plantation in Jalisco.

Margaritas come in a wide assortment of flavors here, including banana, strawberry, peach, kiwi fruit, mango, blackberry and raspberry. Then there’s the Señor Tequila margarita, the house drink specialty, made with secret ingredients, which the staff will not divulge.

But the true test of a restaurant is its food. At Señor Tequila’s, the traditional Mexican specialties are made from fresh, top-quality ingredients and given a unique flavor by the variety of authentic sauces and seasonings from Elvia’s family recipes.

“I grew up in a family that loved to cook,” she says. “A lot of the dishes we make here were taught to me by my mother.”

She and Miguel were living in Washington state, where they owned restaurants, when they came to Naples for a vacation. “We fell in love with this area,” she says, and believed there was a need for a restaurant like the one they have created. “Seasonings, spices — we bring a lot from Mexico.” Even the coffee, made with cinnamon, comes from south of the border.

Marlene and Dave Trickel drove over from the Strand in Naples. “This is our first time, but we’ll be back,” says Marlene. “We love Mexican food.” Both opted for burritos; Marlene’s was the burrito chile verde, made with pork in a sauce of green chiles covered with melted cheese. Dave went with the burrito, which comes with your choice of chicken, ground or shredded beef, plus rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, guacamole, melted cheese and salsa.

Pressed to name the most popular item at the restaurant, Guzman names their fajitas as one top choice. Available with chicken, steak, shrimp, veggies, or the restaurant’s special Señor Tequila fajitas; the dish also comes in “fajitas mixtas,” a combinations for those who have a hard time deciding.

With more than 100 dishes on the menu, deciding what to order can be difficult. Along with the classic Mexican favorites, Guzman recommends unique specialties such as molcajete caliente. The sizzling prawns and mushrooms are served in a hot stone bowl, originally a mortar and pestle such as is used to grind maize.

At Señor Tequila’s, it’s Mexican all the way. Only three are American — hamburger, cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburger.

That doesn’t seem to be an issue for Señor Tequila’s customers, 80 to 90 percent of whom are Anglos. “This is the best place on the strip,” says Chad Wilcox, in for lunch with Trina DePoy. “We’re back for the third or fourth time.”

“We’ve been here six or seven times,” says Eric Brophy of Golden Gate, “both for lunch and dinner. It’s good food, a nice atmosphere, and a reasonable price.”

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