The Taste of Mexico
La Mesa Mexican Restaurant brings authentic Mexican cuisine to Wichita

By Regina Roths

For a dining experience that is truly south of the border, people in and around Wichita head over to La Mesa Mexican Restaurant. With its bright décor, friendly staff, and northern Mexico cuisine, this west side restaurant is a favorite of diners everywhere.

The La Mesa experience begins the moment you step inside where colorful, vibrant décor immerses you in a world of that invigorates the senses. Brightly painted, hand-carved chairs and benches, mirrors framed in hammered metal and tile, paintings of Mexico street scenes, all create an aura that is spicy and inviting. “We maintain the sensation that you really are in Mexico,” says co-owner and manager Mario Quiroz. “The décor, the bright colors, the furniture—all of this was made by artists in Mexico.”

It is an environment that stimulates the appetite, giving diners plenty to look forward to while perusing a menu with more than one hundred choices. The selections on La Mesa’s menu include everything from appetizers and entrees to seafood and vegetarian specialties.

For instance, there are the favorites of many of the restaurant’s regular diners; items like cheese dip with chips or chimichangas filled with beef or shredded chicken. Tacos Discada, a mix of chorizo, steak, bacon, cheese, cilantro, and fire sauce, is another choice selection. And there are new items to choose from as well: El Magnifico is a chicken dish marinated in a tequila-based sauce served with Mexican white rice, while El Patron is a shrimp dish sautéed in tequila and garlic sauce. 

In fact, whether blended into an entrée or served in a glass, tequila is one of the top items served up at La Mesa. The restaurant’s full-service bar offers nearly fifty brands of tequila, ranging from $4.50 to $45 a shot, and on Wednesday nights, the place sells ten-ounce margaritas in nearly every flavor under the sun for only $1.49 each. The bar selections also include a dozen imported beers.

Opened in August 2001, La Mesa is one of a chain of restaurants owned by brothers Francisco and Antonio Onate, along with family and friends. Hailing from Jalisco, Mexico, the Onate brothers opened their first restaurant in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1993. Through hard work and a dedication to serving only the best recipes made from the freshest ingredients, the brothers grew their chain to a collection of ten restaurants throughout the Midwest.

Today, the founding tradition of serving good food at reasonable prices is a key to the Wichita restaurant’s success. While an average entree at La Mesa costs around $7.50, La Mesa’s promotions include coupons in local phone books, mailings, and even online, some offering several dollars in discounts. And while diners sometimes take advantage of the discounted pricing, Quiroz says most come to La Mesa because they want a good meal. “I think people come here because they really want to enjoy the food,” he says.

Of course, having friendly servers is also an enhancement to the La Mesa dining experience. “The first thing I look for is an attitude for serving people,” says Quiroz of his hiring practices and the quality of his staff. “Then, I try to keep them motivated and smiling, that way they can transmit that energy to our customers and really give that 110 percent on service. I like them to enjoy the work they are doing and I tell them all the time to feel successful when people enjoy the food.”

The staff’s energy sometimes translates to the occasional outburst of song by the cooking crew, says Quiroz, and customer birthdays always bring a rousing rendition of Las Mañanitas, the Spanish version of the birthday song. 

Any night of the week, this 210-restaurant is a place where families and couples, friends and neighbors, co-workers and working professionals stop in for an evening meal. Kids especially enjoy the restaurant’s bright décor and hundreds of them have left their own mark on the place by way of drawings mounted for everyone to see. “It began when our smaller customers asked us to hang their drawings on the wall,” says Quiroz. “We started doing that and now it’s like a tradition. We’ve got one wall with something like 300 drawings; it’s amazing.”

In addition to in-house dining, La Mesa offers takeout for those who want to enjoy a meal in the comfort of home.

Catering is also available for everything from corporate lunches to weekend weddings. La Mesa can cater parties of eight or more, a service that comes complete with setup, servers, and optional cooks and bartenders.

As a company that understands the importance of community, La Mesa gives back to those who have contributed to its success. The company has lent its support to local sports teams and fundraisers and regularly takes part in events like Zoobilee, a benefit for the Sedgwick County Zoo. “We are making a living here, thanks to the community, so we need to contribute in the same way through a donation,” says Quiroz, adding that the restaurant also provides aid to the needy in Latin American countries through associations with other organizations.

Good food, friendly service, reasonable prices, and a warm and inviting atmosphere are what make every visit to La Mesa Mexican Restaurant a dining experience.

Quick Stats:
Company Name:
La Mesa Mexican Restaurant

Type of business:
210-seat Mexican Restaurant with full-service bar, catering, and takeout

Secret to success:
Good food, friendly staff, reasonably priced menu selections

Colorful décor, lively music creates a feeling of being in Mexico

Appetizers: $3.25-8.49
Lunch: $5.49-6.99 plus specials
Dinner: $7.75-14.75

Full bar offering nearly fifty brands of tequila, a dozen imported beers, and Wednesday night margaritas, $1.49 for 10-ounce

Years in business:
Opened in 2001, part of a ten-restaurant chain that opened in 1993

Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue & Thur: 11 am-9 pm
Wed: 11 am-10:30 pm
Fri & Sat: 11 am-10 pm
Sun: 11 am-9 pm

Contact info:
6960 W. 21st Street North (just east of Ridge Road)
Wichita, Kansas 67205