When Memo’s Cocina & Tequila Bar opened in downtown Turlock in 2014, even its owners wondered if the area needed another Mexican restaurant.
But the eatery’s fresh-made, from-scratch approach to its food and drinks offers an elevated take on many familiar classics that soon became an unmistakable hit. Now five years later, the popular establishment is expanding to a second location — this time in Modesto.
The Ramirez family, which also owns the four Las Casuelas locations in the region, has a 16-year track record of running restaurants in the valley. Second-generation restaurateurs and husband-and-wife team Guillermo and Karina Ramirez manage Memo’s, and said they wanted to bring their brand of contemporary Mexican cuisine and cocktails.
“We felt Modesto needed something modern but authentic,” said Karina Ramirez. “A lot of people think Mexican food is all the same, but we wanted to do something new.”
They’ve chosen a north Modesto spot, on Sylvan Avenue at Forest Glenn Drive, across from the skate park. The family is working with their longtime developer Mahesh Khatmani and MK Capital Group to create the from-the-ground-up restaurant. Construction should start around the start of next year with an expected summer 2020 opening.
Their concept for the Modesto site is an 8,100-square-foot building with a large banquet room for private parties and events. The space is considerably larger than their existing Turlock site at the corner of Main Street and Broadway, which is 5,300 square feet.
But the restaurant’s concept will be exactly the same. Mexican favorites made from scratch. Mixes and juices squeezed fresh. Sauces and dressings all made daily. Popular dishes include the Chile Relleno en Nogada (stuffed relleno with beef picadillo, almonds, apples and peaches and a house-made walnut cream sauce topped with pomegranate seeds for $14) and Memo’s Mole (chicken breast in a house-made traditional mole sauce with dried chiles, spices, nuts and chocolate for $16).
You can also expect the tequila bar to be just as well-stocked. Memo’s has more than 100 bottles of only 100-percent agave tequila to choose from. Its extensive specialty cocktail list includes a host of tropical and seasonal fruits, juiced or muddled fresh.
The more upscale versions of well-known dishes and drinks are all served in a stylish setting with a modern, industrial feel. That same more metropolitan look will be carried into the new Modesto location, Karina said. So expect clean lines and exposed metal. The new site will also have a large outdoor patio, just like in Turlock.
The location, near Beyer High School, should attract from the north Modesto, Village One and Riverbank communities. After Marie Callender’s closed abruptly this summer, Karina said, they briefly considered taking over that building just down the street. But they ultimately remain committed to their new building and design.
She expects that once construction is complete, the new restaurant will need to hire about 45 to 50 employees. And the name will remain the same, “Memo’s,” after the nickname for her father-in-law, husband and son’s first name — Guillermo.
As the Ramirez family plans to move into Modesto, they aren’t the only Mexican food-tequila bar establishment staking a claim in the city. In downtown Modesto, the new Maestro’s Cocina & Tequila Bar is still under renovation and should open soon.