It seems like ever since the Saint House shuttered its Cuban/Caribbean concept with an extensive rum bar in fall 2014, folks have been peeking in trying to figure out what the space would become. Well, you can wonder no longer because Ruben Monroy is bringing his popular upscale Mexican eatery Elvira's to the space at 256 E. Congress St.
While initial plans set the opening date within a couple months, Monroy says he and his team have decided to completely rebuild the interior to make the space more functional for their concept. He says to expect much of what Elvira's has become known for in terms of fare with plans to "maintain 70 percent of the menu" and change the rest up.
"It's a different kind of Mexican food—it's elegant and sexy," Monroy says. "We're going to play with Latin flavors and focus on seasonal, local ingredients."
He says he's been using the Tubac location as a testing ground for the new Tucson menu, creating weekend specials that he's seeking to include on the new menu. The menu will feature the famous chile rellenos and the variety of moles from Elvira's, while incorporating fusion elements like complimentary Thai flavors and even French sauces. The bar will focus on tequila, mezcal, margaritas and Mexican wines.
"I really love the culture of wine," Monroy says. "Downtown doesn't have too many places for wines, except maybe Maynard's, which focuses on French wine."
Although Cafe Poca Cosa and Penca are both flourishing in the upscale Mexican fare and mezcal bar concept downtown, Monroy says he isn't worried about a little healthy competition.
"The Mexican menu is endless and my menu is very different from them. We go different ways without leaving the Mexican scene," he explains. "I think competition makes you better."
One unique facet of Monroy's plans is to stay open late—like any good Latin restaurant.
"We're not trying to close on the weekends at 9 or 10 (p.m.)," Monroy says. "We want to bring nightlife—to go a bit away from the college scene and be something more romantic."
That plan includes live, acoustic music from Cuban and other Latin musicians.
Monroy originally operated his family's restaurant (which had been open since 1927) out of Nogales and, before re-locating to Tubac, he says his initial plan was to open Elvira's in Tucson. This location will be a realization of that initial plan, but with inspiration he's gained from his travels and work since.
"The stars didn't align then," he says. "Now we'll be bringing a new idea from an old restaurant."
Monroy says he hopes to be open on Congress Street by November of this year.