In 2011, Adrian Ortega relocated his popular Mexican grocery from Lorain Avenue to Lakewood Heights Blvd., where he renamed it La Plaza Supermarket (13609 Lakewood Heights Blvd., 216-476-8000). Since the beginning, the Latin foods market on the Cleveland-Lakewood border sold tacos, tostadas, quesadillas and other delicious items from a small counter in the rear of the shop (and, when weather permitted, a taco cart up front).
It would be a couple years, though, until the broader community discovered the incomparable joys of the authentic street food-style tacos. Thanks to friends, food writers and the proliferation of Instagram, however, the floodgates have been opened wide.
“It started little by little,” explains Christina Gonzales. “People liked trying a different style from other restaurants. We are trying as much as we can to do it authentic. People love the way that we do it.”
As business continued to swell, changes were made to the largely makeshift café in the rear in attempts to keep up. More seating was added, additional staffers hired, another griddle put into service, but the demand kept rising. At certain times of the day and week, lines for food can snake clear down the grocery aisles.
To alleviate the pressure while capitalizing on the demand, management decided to carve out space in the front of the store for a self-contained taqueria. For months, shoppers have followed the progress of the build-out as it neared completion.
“It has always been in his mind to do this,” Gonzales says of Ortega, her boss. “It’s just that first you have to get customers. But now was the right moment to do it, so he just went for it.”
When it opens in about two weeks, La Plaza Taqueria
will sell the same lineup of asada, al pastor, barbacoa, lengua and chorizo tacos, tortas, tamales and quesadillas, but will boast numerous consumer-related enhancements. For starters, customers will no longer have to pay cash (or take their bill up to the grocery checkout to use a card). There will be triple the griddle space to enhance efficiencies. There will be seating for approximately 40 guests inside plus more on a patio when it’s finished. Separate entrances allow for ingress from either the sidewalk or the grocery.
Also new will be a selection of La Michoacana brand ice creams and frozen treats.
Once the taqueria is up and running, the rear café will be decommissioned and the space handed over to the bakery department.