The menu of Fairfield dining options continues to grow.
Two establishments that plan to open soon will bring a southwestern accent to palates in this once-quintessentially northeastern community, and their featured fare will have at least one thing in common: tequila.
Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila and Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill are both scheduled to open this fall at opposite ends of town.
General manager Rich Hildebrandt said the Fairfield Geronimo will open in late fall, probably sometime in November, in the building that once housed The Shack restaurant at 2070 Post Road, corner of North Pine Creek Road. The Shack closed last March after a nearly three-year run.
"It's a good location," Hildebrandt said of the site, which has housed a succession of eateries for decades. The downtown train station and Interstate 95 are only blocks away.
Brothers and business partners Edgar and Hector Brambila of Charlotte, N.C., aiming for an early-October opening date for Rio Bravo, which sits at the intersection of Kings Highway and Commerce Drive in the building most recently occupied by the Fairfield Cafe.
A team is renovating the interior, installing hand-carved wood columns and hand-painted Mexican tiles. The brothers will approach their menu the same way. "The food and the techniques to make our foods, plus the decorations are all hand-made," Edgar said. Even the bar glasses are hand-blown glass, he said.
"It's important to us that (patrons) have an authentic experience, that they get transported to a beautiful place in Mexico. I want that restaurant to be the pride of my family," Edgar said.
Geronimo will take its diners on a trip to the American Southwest, particularly New Mexico. The restaurant's decor will be influenced by Santa Fe culture.
"There's a huge emphasis on New Mexico and we get all our chilis shipped fresh from small farms in New Mexico," Hildebrandt said. Geronimo will also serve Native American and classic Mexican dishes like tamales and quesadillas. "It's not separated by land boundaries," he said.
The Geronimo menu will include a Navajo fry bread that resembles a rustic pizza. There will be savory and sweet versions including a chorizo and fig preparation and a dessert bread topped with powdered sugar and strawberry puree. Hildebrandt said renovations will include building out the patio, improving banquet seating and placing the bar in the center of the restaurant.
Rio Bravo will have on its menu the Marco Polo taco: a hand-stretched corn tortilla covered with melted cheese, caramelized onions, purple and green cabbage and bacon-wrapped shrimp drizzled with roasted poblano crema. "That's just one example of our menu," Edgar Brambila said, adding that guacamole will be made table-side and margaritas will be hand-shaken.
Both restaurants owners were looking to branch out and targeted Fairfield for a reason.
"Fairfield's growing in the restaurant business and they wanted to be a part of that," Hildebrandt said.
"The Fairfield area is a very good market," Edgar Brambila said.
Beverly A. Balaz, the new executive director of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, said she is already impressed by the number of restaurants in town and their variety. She also sees more willingness of people to explore different cuisines.
"Cultural influences in foods are becoming more interesting to diners. There's a place in Fairfield to have those restaurants come in to offer those specialty cultural cuisines," said Balaz, who recently dined at Baró, a new Latin American restaurant in the Brick Walk shopping complex at 1229 Post Road.