Xcaret Mexican Grill & Cantina Mexico Celebrated & Elevated!
Walk through the front door of Xcaret Mexican Grill & Cantina and your senses are flooded! The smell of fresh tortillas being made alongside the scent of meats grilling; the riot of color from the huge masks, paintings, and furniture, all made in Mexico; the sounds of people talking and laughing while they soak in the ambiance; Xcaret is far from your run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant!
I recently had the pleasure of a conversation with Partner and General Manager of Xcaret, Juan Quiceno, to talk about what’s been happening since they opened in November 2017.
I started by asking Juan about their first year. “It’s been great! We’ve had our struggles here with all the rain and cold weather, so many people just don’t want to get out, and with the closing of Business 40, it’s all part of the journey. The weather is improving and we’re seeing folks return. We’ve been getting ready for the crowds!”
“We’re very excited for the upcoming Cinco De Mayo celebration! Cinco is actually on a Sunday this year so we will have our main celebration on Saturday the 4th, with some of that spilling over into Sunday. We’ve been working with our suppliers to be able to offer a number of fantastic food and drink specials. We’ll have a Mariachi band playing. We plan to have a big party!”
“We have our new catering menu available. We’ve always done catering when people would call in but now we’ve formalized our menu. We’ve added a few things, like our Secret Menu items such as the Mexi Burger, and we’ve expanded our drink menu.”
“We’re hoping to have a new patio area ready to roll this summer. We’re working with the City, the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, and our landlord to see if we can make it happen. We’ve had tables outside before but we want to create more of a defined space with a bar and seating for people to have a better experience.”
Juan shared he will be catering for the River Run Film Festival being held in Winston-Salem in April. This is a first for Xcaret. He remarked about how well the city has been doing bringing in various conventions to downtown, including a recent comic convention which resulted in a record setting night for the restaurant.
I asked Juan what makes Xcaret different? “I think most Mexican restaurants focus on their combinations, like Speedy Gonzalez, or your taco-enchilada-rice-and-beans, stuff like that. Xcaret is more authentic and focuses more on presentation and the quality of the food. We have been strong on drinks since we are downtown. We’ve added a lot more margaritas that represent Mexico. We have one new drink that’s in a large fishbowl with o.j., fresh fruit, then you throw the tequila in there and we put on Cruzan 151 and light it up. People love fire! We’ve added to our tequila selection and are teaching people about the different varieties.”
“I don’t think I’ve been to another Mexican restaurant that has somebody making homemade tortillas and you can see them being made through the glass. We get compliments daily and even have people coming by to just pick up our tortillas!”
Another feature which makes Xcaret stand out is their furniture. It’s bright and colorful and comes from Mexico. The large masks are painted with authentic rural scenes, famous buildings and other landmarks from Mexico. “I want people to feel like they left Winston-Salem when they come here. They can enter, fiesta, relax, and have a good time,” said Juan.
“Usually when you go to a Mexican restaurant all you hear is mariachi, mariachi, mariachi, which is good but there is way more to Mexican and Hispanic culture. So we change up the music all the time. We’ll play some Spanish pop or rock, on the weekends I’ll go with Salsa. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments on our music.”
When asked about areas to improve, Juan noted Xcaret excels compared to other mexican restaurants, but he’s always looking for ways to make the experience even stronger for his customers. He is constantly looking for new ideas on plating, preparation, cooking, all with an eye toward making the end product even more gourmet. “We eat with our eyes first, so if you’re excited about how it looks or what you’re getting, maybe because it’s cool or different, that’s what I want to do for them.”
Juan is excited to see the renovations completed to Merschel Plaza as the main windows in the dining room overlook the downtown park. “This end of our street has been really changing with the two new hotels about to be opened and the park getting a facelift. We have so much variety available to residents and visitors in just our block.”
Feel the passion that is Xcaret Mexican Grill & Cantina
202 4th St NW, Winston-Salem