When owner Benny Ulloa says his new Emiliano’s restaurant in Cranberry features authentic Mexican, he means it from the food all the way to the décor.
“We wanted to make people completely forget about what was here before,” he said.
Located in the former CiCi’s Pizza in the Cranberry mall off Freedom Road, Emiliano’s held its soft opening Monday. The restaurant will hold a larger grand opening June 11, Ulloa said.
On the eatery’s menu are a variety of homemade Mexican dishes, including appetizers, fajitas, quesadillas, vegetarian options and much more.
Ulloa, who named the restaurant after his 6-year-old son, said his personal recommendations are the Taco Stand street tacos and the California Burrito, a large flour tortilla filled with rice, black beans, sour cream, cheese and a protein.
“That’s a grand slam,” he said.
There also are a variety of margaritas, mojitos, beer (including craft beer and selections from Mexico) and sangria, as well as daily drink specials.
“We have very strong happy hour specials,” Ulloa said.
On the walls are unique artifacts made in Mexico. In the center of the restaurant is a working water fountain, which Ulloa said he added to give patrons the feeling of being in a relaxing courtyard.
Other new additions to the restaurant include an expansive bar, again made in Mexico, with several flat screen televisions for sports viewing. Ulloa said the bar’s stone wall and the decorative lighting were thoughtfully chosen to give the restaurant the right ambiance.
Some of Emiliano’s other decorative accents include tiled tables and a long wall of plants separating the bar from the restaurant.
Ulloa, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in North Carolina, said construction on the carefully planned out 5,000 square foot restaurant took about three months.
“We’re going to be here for the long run,” he said. “We wanted to make sure everything was done right.”
Ulloa, who also owns Emiliano’s restaurants on East Carson Street in the South Side and on William Flynn Highway in Richland Township (he recently closed a location in McIntyre Square in McCandless), said he was inspired to open an Emiliano’s in Cranberry because of the demographics—and a lack of authentic Mexican restaurants in the area.
“We’re very happy to be in Cranberry,” he said. “I think the community will be very happy with us being here too.”
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