One of Provo’s favorite Mexican restaurants — which temporarily disappeared — will reopen across the street from its old location.
On Friday, March 29, El Azteca closed shop at its old location on the northwest corner of Bulldog and University Ave. and is moving to the southeast corner of the intersection, next to Einstein Bagels.
While it’s sudden news for El Azteca’s customers, Carlos Rubio, owner and general manager of the restaurant, said the news came as a surprise to him as well. The restaurant’s move is the result of new owners purchasing the property that Rubio rented from.
“The land was sold, and we just thought we had until August,” Rubio said. “Ultimately, it’s not a big deal, the only thing was how soon we needed to be out.”
El Azteca has been a part of BYU’s history since 1962. Its first location was south of campus on 700 East and had more of a sit-down restaurant feel. In 1994, Rubio and his family opened up a second location geared toward quick service. After a few years, this fast-paced and casual environment started to be more successful, so the Rubio family let go of the sit-down restaurant. Their risky move paid off.
The land that El Azteca and the Flower Patch once occupied will be redeveloped as a CVS pharmacy, said Josh Yost, Provo City planner.
Although El Azteca’s last day in its former current location was March 29, Rubio said he is excited to open up in a new space.
“I found out about our new location on our last day in the old one,” Rubio said. “We started moving equipment the very next day.”
Rubio said opening a new restaurant, whether it’s a new location or brand new franchise, is terrifying because people don’t always follow.
“I’m excited that we can continue and terrified of the unknown,” he said. “We finished one marathon and started another. The place looks like a Mexican carnival inside.”
No official opening day has been announced, but Rubio said he has high hopes to open his restaurant to the public next week. Rubio also said he will have a grand opening celebration on Cinco de Mayo, or May 5.
El Azteca’s customer base is primarily BYU students, like Katrina Pearson, a family and consumer science education major from Highland. She said she is thrilled that El Azteca is going to remain a part of BYU.
“I can still get my burrito fix,” Pearson said. “They have completely different food than Cafe Rio. They are a lot more authentic and true to the real thing.”
Although Pearson is excited for El Azteca’s return, she is concerned about its new location.
“That location has quick turnover,” she said. “I’ve been here for six years, and I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go. I hope that doesn’t happen to them.”
Although uncertainty looms around this location, Rubio said he plans to embrace the opportunity.
“I can’t let it scare me,” he said. “We are going to try to stay a part of this community. We want to bring back some of the things that our customers loved from the sit-down menu. It’ll be between fast food and sit down. We are thinking about doing a rotating original menu with three or four platters that were a part of the original El Azteca.”