Puebla to relocate; new Mexican restaurant to take its place in St. Charles

  • Puebla Modern Mexican is relocating a few blocks west, making way for a new restaurant, La Mesa Modern Mexican, to open at 51 S. First St. in downtown St. Charles.

      Puebla Modern Mexican is relocating a few blocks west, making way for a new restaurant, La Mesa Modern Mexican, to open at 51 S. First St. in downtown St. Charles. Lauren Rohr | Staff Photographer

  • The Finery & Blacksmith Bar closed in April at 305 W. Main St. The building soon will house Puebla Modern Mexican, which is relocating from its existing space at the First Street Plaza.

      The Finery & Blacksmith Bar closed in April at 305 W. Main St. The building soon will house Puebla Modern Mexican, which is relocating from its existing space at the First Street Plaza. Lauren Rohr | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/18/2019 6:18 AM

A shuffling of restaurants in downtown St. Charles has made way for the addition of one contemporary Mexican establishment and the relocation of another.

Puebla Modern Mexican is moving from 51 S. First St. to a recently vacated storefront a few blocks west. Its new site at 305 W. Main St. previously housed The Finery & Blacksmith Bar, which closed in April.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The relocation is expected to be complete by the end of the month, at which point Puebla's former manager, Kimberly Lawson, plans to open a new restaurant in its place.

La Mesa Modern Mexican is projected to begin operating in mid-July at what Mayor Ray Rogina called a "key spot" in the First Street Plaza. The St. Charles city council on Monday approved granting a liquor license to the establishment, which will serve Mexican food and cocktails.

"That building is an important piece of our First Street development," Rogina said. "I wish you nothing but the best and continued success moving forward."

New mixed-use buildings and various streetscape improvements have transformed the landscape of downtown St. Charles in the last decade, particularly along the First Street corridor and riverfront.

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Puebla has been in the center of the action for the past six years. But in a letter to Rogina, restaurant owner Tony Alfonso said his lease is up, and "the high rent and cost of doing business on First Street is no longer an option."

The former Finery site is smaller, costs 60% less to operate, and is "ready to go," he said. "I know my customers will love and appreciate the new spot."

Other than the building and floor plan, Alfonso said he does not plan to change anything about the Puebla concept. Rogina, who serves as the city's liquor control commissioner, gave him the OK to transfer the business's liquor license to the Main Street address.

"For us to fill that footprint this quickly is, as far as I'm concerned, a real plus," Rogina said.

La Mesa will be the first restaurant owned by Lawson, but she's no stranger to the food industry. Her roughly 35 years of experience include five years as operating manager for Puebla, as well as a previous role managing the adjacent Pizzeria NEO, according to city documents.

As Puebla has, La Mesa intends to participate in downtown partnership activities, such as the Unwind Wednesday summer events held on the First Street Plaza, Lawson said in a business plan. The establishment's menu includes Mexican dishes such as burritos, fajitas, flautas and an assortment of tacos.

"My goal for La Mesa is to continue the outstanding customer service with ongoing employee development," Lawson said in her plans. "The food quality will be met by high standards also."

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