By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—Married couple Juan Carlos Lujano and Estela Castellanos looked above for a sign as to whether they should open a restaurant or not.
“For a long time, he wanted to open a restaurant and I said, ‘Let’s pray. Let’s pray’ and then say it’s a little place but big business,” Castellanos said, sitting in their small restaurant that only has one table, a check-out counter, front refrigerator, kitchen and dishwashing/storage area. “Everybody working together I think God has plans for grand opening this Thursday.”
Yes, the business is having a grand opening at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, at their location at 114 S. Kansas in Newton. It’s the only lime green house in the area—maybe the only lime green structure in town.
They call it Carlos’ Kitchen and Cater, and there’s parking out front. They plan to have tables outside and a table set up for people waiting on their orders. Customers can eat at the restaurant’s one table, but they might have to share the table with others.
Castellanos wanted the building painted lime green.
“Green—it’s life,” she said. “That’s why I like this color. Have a bright place for work. It makes me happy.”
“A welcoming color for a welcoming restaurant,” daughter Alex Lujano added.
Their menu will include Mexican food, like burritos, street tacos, taco bundles, tostadas, California tostadas, sanchos, nachos, nachos supreme, quesadillas and chicken chimichangas. They don’t charge extra for salsa. American food will include various dinner meals like grilled chicken breast, chicken fried dinner, chicken fried steak and pit ham dinner; sandwiches like grilled cheese, grilled ham and cheese, and grilled chicken melt; chicken wraps; and salads, like taco salad supreme. They’ll also offer vegetarian and vegan choices, but the restaurant needs at least a day’s notice for those. The restaurant can be contacted at (316) 804-0158.
They felt God wanted them to open a restaurant and they also felt he pointed out where to have it.
“We always walk from [where we live near the restaurant] to Braum’s, and last year, we were praying for a place,” Lujano said. “There was a gentleman working on the roof [of our current building], and we talked to him, and he said he got this place for sale.”
They then saw it as a possible place to locate since it’s in a commercial area. Things fell into place.
Lujano said people have been calling him for catering. He already has a customer base and was booked from June through August 2021 for catering. Lujano thought they needed to make the next move. He’s been cooking out of his home for up to 100 people with the catering.
Lujano said his brothers from church, Casa Betania, which meets at First Mennonite Church, loaned him the church kitchen.
“They know I cook for MCC sale,” Lujano said.
While using the church kitchen, he cooked 1,200 burritos in one day for his son’s wedding, as well as a nacho bar. Lujano also does fundraisers for Casa Betania and they’ve taken part in other fundraisers, like the Mexican-American Men’s Fastpitch Softball Tournament.
“So far, I’ve been cooking [for] up to 480 for my son’s wedding,” Lujano said, adding he cooks with his wife, kids and other family members.
Two daughters and two nieces will work there, as will Lujano’s brother, José Refugio Lujano. Their other children are Carlos Lujano Jr. and Marie Lujano.
The three who own the restaurant, the married couple and son Miguel Angel Lujano, are trying to serve the town like it needs to be served, Lujano said.
Their hours will be from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays. They close at 6 p.m. most weekdays because they cater after that.
People will be able to order off the menu or use the carryout buffet.
“We’re flexible and flexible hours, too,” Lujano said. “You can grab it and get out of here. The buffet will be come and go.”
Ordering off the menu will be a five- to 10-minute wait.
They’re trying to make their operation as efficient as they can for customers and they want to accommodate industrial workers, like Bunting Magnetics and Future Foam, who might be tired of other restaurants in town.
In addition, if folks order 10 or more meals, they can drop them off.
“We try to do stuff efficient [for people who] don’t want to dine in,” Lujano said.
They haven’t done this alone.
“We just want to thank the Newton community for supporting us,” Lujano said. “People who know me, they know my real reputation. There’s a lot of friends and family that made it possible.”
Son Miguel said people know what to expect from him.
Lujano said most of his friends have asked him when he was going to open a restaurant.
About 90 percent of the food is homemade, he added, including chips.
In addition to menu items and the buffet, the restaurant will have weekend specials, like tamales, of which Castellanos is quite talented at making, according to daughter Alex.
Lujano has extensive restaurant work experience, having been employed at Newell’s for 17 years; Old Town for two years, which is a restaurant in Hillsboro that’s now closed; and eight years at The Breadbasket. He was a cook at all of those places and was assistant manager/supervisor at Newell’s, as well. He worked at Newell’s from 1994-2007 and also was at Fox Ridge. Lujano and his wife came from Mexico in 1994.
Lujano wanted to open the restaurant for at least one major reason.
“I think it’s time—time for a change,” he said.