This week’s stop in our video series on local businesses with stories to tell: Fiesta Cafe in Champaign, a constant in the ever-changing Midtown landscape.
When Ron Haddix and a partner first opened Fiesta Cafe in 1988, it was one of the only sit-down Mexican restaurants in town. He shuffled in chairs and furniture from a secondhand store and set up shop. Over three decades later, the competition for Mexican food in town is steeper. But as the first one to stake its claim, Fiesta has its fans.
“We’ve got very loyal, dedicated customers that have been here since 1988,” said server Amy Myers, who has worked at Fiesta Cafe since 1993. “We’ve had customers come in here in the past that have said, ‘This used to be my beauty shop,’ and so she walked by and showed me where the shampoo bowls used to be, and she talked about the whole beauty shop. And it was a barber shop and a Chili Den. A lot of customers talk about the hot and fiery chili they used to eat here. We have grandparents come with their kids and their grandchildren.”
One area that the competition can’t match, though, is the sheer volume of Mexican artwork on its walls, much of which was purchased on Maxwell Street in Chicago, some of which is directly from Mexico, and some of which was made by customers.
“It’s kind of neat how everything was acquired,” Myers said.
The restaurant is also much bigger than when Haddix moved in, with multiple additions, including a recently added room with an ornate bar.
The food, though, hasn’t changed much, Myers said — and for the customers she’s known for almost 30 years, that’s just fine.