CINCINNATI -- After more than two years in the making, Casa Figueroa will open its doors in the growing entertainment district of Pleasant Ridge on Thursday, April 27.
General manager and longtime Pleasant Ridge resident Zach Zuke said he is looking to make the colorful restaurant "a destination spot."
Once a VFW hall, Casa Figueroa now sweeps the building with bold, colorful artwork, both inside and outside. The seating outdoors gets full view of a playful rendition of la sirena that spans the entire side of the adjacent building occupied by Everybody's Records. The front pillars spiral with near-neon pink foliage against an electric-teal backdrop. A painted gargantuan rooster looks fiercely down at the parking lot at the back of the building.
The restaurant's interior lights up with Latin-themed artifacts and design. Banquette seating is upholstered in bright ethnic patterns. Even the image of Frida Kahlo is imprinted in the fabric shades in the restroom.
Executive chef Matthew Schroeder will steward the bright, bold flavors of Latin-inspired cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The food runs the gamut from old-world paella and mussels to contemporary tacos and tamales.
The chef, who said he learned to cook with farm-fresh ingredients in Asheville, North Carolina, is intent on sourcing as locally as possible.
Schroeder is also mindful about serving "clean" food, favoring non-genetically modified organisms where possible. He uses organic whole corn tortillas from Shagbark Seed & Mill, based in Athens, Ohio.
"Even our fryer oil is non-GMO," he said.
Casa Figueroa is a from-scratch kitchen, making items like chorizo (Spanish sausages) in-house. Menu items include casa salad (shaved romaine, radicchio, pickled radish, pomegranate, peanuts, cotija cheese and prickly pear sesame vinaigrette), duck taco (four-hour duck confit with five-spice, pickled radish and parsnips, charred carrot, caramelized onion and queso fresco) and an assortment of tamales made with ingredients like chorizo, shrimp, huitlacoche, burnt leeks, brown butter masa, grilled peppers and onions.
The full bar at Casa Figueroa will maintain a hyper-focus on tequila, Zuke said.
"We've sourced a barrel of Maestro Dobel Diamante, which we will use as our house tequila," he said. "Beyond that, we will definitely give a fair amount of attention to mezcal, sotol and infused spirits."
While maintaining a local presence, Zuke said, the eatery will seek out lesser-known beer and wine, thus taking a more esoteric approach.
"We want to go a bit more cult-driven and story-driven," he said. "We want to use fledging breweries … breweries on the rise. It's the same with the wine program."
Casa Figueroa will offer beer in bottles and cans, as well as on tap, with selections including Cidergeist Bubbles, Great Lakes Grandes Lagos and Urban Artifact Pinwheel.
The restaurant seats 80 people inside with room for 45 more outside. It includes three full bars: one on the main floor, one on the patio and another in the basement that's equipped with '70s arcade games, including three pinball machines and a foosball table.
"The bar in the basement is more of an arcade overflow area while waiting for tables or reservations," Zuke said.
Customers can order from the full menu from any bar; however, the outdoor bar is designated service only and does not offer any seating. Reservations are accepted for seating on the second floor.
Even as Casa Figueroa aims to draw diners from outside of Pleasant Ridge, Zuke said he understands the underlying neighborhood vibe of the business district and hopes to be a welcoming spot for the local residents.
"It's a pedestrian-driven area," he said. "A lot of people live within a mile or a mile and a half off this strip on Montgomery Road. We want to be an inviting, comfortable place with a neighborhood feel."
Projected opening: April 27, 2017
Address: 6112 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge.
Hours (tentative): Closed on Monday; Dining: 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday (brunch) and 4-9 p.m. Sunday (dinner). Bar: 4-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter.