Mexican restaurant Que Chula Craft Tacos & Tequila Bar is approaching its one-year anniversary on Franklin Street.
The restaurant, which opened last year on May 7 at 140 W. Franklin St., offers authentic and Tex-Mex style dishes such as street tacos, burritos, chimichangas and quesadillas. Originally from Mexico, Jose Ramírez and his wife, Laurena Ibarra, wanted a menu that would appeal to all kinds of customers.
“We did a traditional side, like Tex-Mex, of the menu that everybody is familiar with and then a very authentic side of Mexican dishes,” said Ramírez, Que Chula’s owner.
And while Que Chula's specialty items, such as the “Chile Relleno” or “Carne Asada,” remain very popular, the restaurant is accommodating of all diets.
"Eating out can be difficult for me when I can’t eat lactose," said first-year UNC student Kennedy Neppl. "Que Chula was very understanding and is always willing to prepare my meals accordingly.”
This isn't the first time an Ibarra has opened a restaurant in Chapel Hill. Ramírez's father, Rigoberto Ibarra, opened one of the first sit-down Mexican restaurants in Chapel Hill, El Rodeo, in 1989.
“We choose Chapel Hill because we love Chapel Hill and the people,” Ramírez said. “We thought Franklin Street was a great and very popular location to open up our business.”
Scoring the perfect location took a lot of planning. What Ramírez and Laurena Ibarra did not plan for was the struggle of opening during COVID-19.
“Opening during a pandemic was challenging," Ramírez said. "Although, having most of the other restaurants closed, students needed places to eat, so our business was not too bad.”
Meredith Poole, a Que Chula employee and UNC student, started working for the Ibarras in August. Due to the restaurant's large outdoor seating area, she said they were able to continue business as usual for the most part — while also following COVID-19 guidelines.
Que Chula has seen more customers than it initially anticipated during the pandemic, but despite its current success, Ramírez is hopeful that business will continue to grow as COVID-19 restrictions ease and vaccine distribution continues.
“The first couple of months after opening were difficult during the pandemic,” Ramírez said. “But things are beginning to pick up and we are hopeful that consumers will continue to come in and support our business.”