Taco Tico near 13th and Tyler to reopen

WICHITA — A new Taco Tico is going to open in a former Taco Tico site just south of 13th and Tyler.

Owner Greg White says some former Taco Tico franchisees in other cities “got a hold of me and said, ‘Greg, we don’t want to lose Taco Tico in the Wichita area.’”

Last year, the state seized the assets of Ajax International Group, which had 10 Taco Tico restaurants in the greater Wichita are. The company declared bankruptcy with the intent to reopen some of the restaurants, but it didn’t work out in the end.

“It’s all kind of complicated since what happened last year,” White says. “I don’t know how to explain it all to you. It’s kind of weird the way everything’s happening.”

The bottom line for him is on Wednesday he’s reopening the first of what he hopes will be five Taco Ticos by the end of the year.

“If it all goes good, yeah,” White says. “That’s probably being a little anxious. You gotta shoot high, I guess.”

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Lalo’s Express Mexican Food moving to larger space

WICHITA — Almost a decade after opening, Jose Bernal is getting ready to move his Lalo’s Express Mexican Food to expanded space.

The restaurant has about 15 seats now in its space at the northwest corner of Harry and Seneca.

In March, it’s moving to former Taco Tico space at 2051 S. Seneca.

“That’s about four-to-five times bigger,” says Lenny Diaz of Realty Executives of Wichita.

Diaz and Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Diaz says Bernal’s business has been growing for years.

“Oh, my god, yes,” he says. “The demand has been so great, he’s going to have a sit-down restaurant.”

The new restaurant will have about 100 seats and a bar.

The Mexican food Bernal serves is “delicious,” Diaz says. He particularly recommends the Kansas Burrito, which he says is big enough to feed two.

Remodeling is underway, and the new space should be ready in early March, Diaz says.

He says the restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. because Bernal “has business all the time.”

China Wok Express to open in former Taco Tico on North Broadway

WICHITA — A new Chinese restaurant is opening in the former Taco Tico space on North Broadway.

Hui Yang is opening China Wok Express at 929 N. Broadway sometime in January most likely.

An e-mail from Yang’s family says: “We’ll serve Chinese fast food, such as chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, vegetables and many others. . . . The concept is: more categories, more taste, and more health.”

The family says it chose that location because of its proximity to downtown, hospitals and hotels.

Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Yang has worked in Chinese restaurants for several years in the past, and the family says she “would like to have her own business to serve the community with Chinese cuisine.”

The e-mail adds, “Sure (she) also wants to make money.”

Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q to open in El Dorado

WICHITA — It’s been a year since former Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon president and COO T.D. O’Connell purchased founder Gary Poulton’s interest in Hog Wild Pit Bar-B-Q, and it’s been a busy year.

O’Connell is close to opening a new Hog Wild in the former Taco Tico space at 1530 W. Central in El Dorado. He says he expects the restaurant to open between Thanksgiving and Christmas and may begin hiring workers yet this week.

He’s also finishing a contract on a new Hog Wild in Lawrence, though he can’t share the exact location yet. O’Connell says he expects the Lawrence Hog Wild to open in the second quarter next year.

Then, it’s on to Topeka and Manhattan, he says. O’Connell has already narrowed down the locations but hasn’t signed leases yet.

With five Wichita locations, O’Connell says he feels like Wichita is covered, especially since the restaurants cater.

“Our circles are a little bit bigger because of that,” he says. “Wichita’s been great to us.”

O’Connell also has Hog Wilds in Hutchinson and Salina.

“Hutchinson has done well – extremely well,” he says.

O’Connell says he’s going to watch how El Dorado does, being a smaller market, and make plans beyond that.

Nebraska and Iowa will be the first states he tackles outside of Kansas, he says.

“I’m going to continue to grow it.”

Adrian’s Cafe owner to open two Zorro’s Tacos and More restaurants

WICHITA — He’s not Spanish. Nor does he wear a mask or cape.

That’s not stopping restaurateur George Matta from using Zorro as his new mascot, though.

The owner of the Mediterranean Adrian’s Cafe at 21st and Rock Road is opening two new restaurants called Zorro’s Tacos & More.

“It’s a new … style of restaurant for me,” Matta says. “This is my first fast food.”

The restaurants are going in two former Taco Tico spaces: 2406 N. Anderson in Newton and 205 W. Seventh Ave. in Augusta.

“I wanted to expand, and I was looking for real estate to own,” Matta says.

“It’s going to be like Tex-Mex, you know, tacos and burritos and enchiladas … with some Mediterranean flair,” he says. “‘And more’ means whatever I want.”

That could be bierocks or gyros or hummus or whatever special he feels like making.

“To do just Mediterranean fast food, I don’t think … it will go,” Matta says. “Mexican food … there’s more demand.”

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Taco Tinga reopens and replaces three Taco Tico restaurants

WICHITA — Taco Tinga is back open along with what looks to be three Taco Tico restaurants, though they’re now Taco Tingas, too.

“We’re currently working on getting the signage changed,” says David Eron, an attorney for the new owner, HAK Group.

The state seized and then reseized the assets of several of Mahmood Karim’s Taco Tico restaurants along with his Taco Tinga for failure to pay taxes.

Karim briefly acknowledged he’s back at the restaurants under a new agreement.

Jeannine Koranda, a spokeswoman for the state, says, “We have not reached any agreement. It would have to be under new ownership.”

In a follow-up call, Karim deferred further questions until after the lunch hour. Then, a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Karim left a voicemail message to say any further calls would have to be to her attorney, David Eron.

Eron won’t discuss the ownership of HAK Group except to say that Mahmood Karim isn’t involved. He won’t say if Mrs. Karim is an owner.

“Again, I can’t disclose ownership issues.”

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You don’t say

“They’ve not stuck by the agreement.”

– Spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda on how the state has reseized the assets of four Taco Tico restaurants because owner Mahmood Karim hasn’t followed a payment plan for paying back taxes, and it has closed and seized the assets of his Taco Tinga restaurant as well

Taco Town to open in former Taco Tico space near Central and Greenwich

WICHITA — Taco Tico may be gone from the Central and Greenwich area, but Taco Town is moving in to its former space at 11333 E. Central.

Larry and Rosemarie Ross are relocating the restaurant from Scottsbluff, Neb.

Larry Ross says his in-laws opened the business, and he and his wife have been running it for almost two decades.

They’re relocating to Wichita because their daughter, Amber Hehnke, and her family are here.

“I know I’ve got to start all over,” Ross says.

He hopes to open the restaurant by early July, but Ross says he’s encountering more red tape than he thought he would.

“I didn’t realize it was such a hassle,” he says of opening a restaurant in Wichita.

Taco Town will seat about 70.

Don Piros with Landmark Commercial Real Estate handled the deal.

Ross says the restaurant will serve homemade food but no alcohol.

“I believe in my mother-in-law’s philosophy,” Ross says. “If you want a drink, go out to a bar.”

Bionic Burger to open fifth restaurant in former Taco Tico space on East Harry

UPDATED — Most parts of Wichita have a Bionic Burger, but Raquel and Jimmy Chavez knew one area was lacking.

“We kind of needed one in the southeast area,” Raquel Chavez says.

So they’re opening their fifth restaurant in the family-owned chain at 3257 E. Harry where a Taco Tico recently closed.

“There’s a lot of people, a lot of activity over there,” Chavez says.

Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate and Troy Farha of NAI Martens handled the deal.

Raquel Chavez’s parents, Pam and Steve Majors, started the business in 1977.

Chavez and her father had a good-natured fight over dinner the other night when she claimed she started in the business at age 11.

Social Security records proved it was age 12.

In actuality, Chavez says, “I’ve worked in the business all my life.”

She and her husband helped open the last two Bionic Burgers – in  Haysville in 2011 and near 21st and Woodlawn in 2010 – while her parents were still in the business. They’re now retired.

The East Harry Bionic Burger will be the first one the Chavezes open on their own. They’d like to grow the company even more.

“We still are looking to expand in different areas.”

Though her parents aren’t at the company day-to-day anymore, Chavez says she can still ask them for advice.

“It’s very nice,” she says.

“I try to do things and figure them out on my own,” Chavez says. She says she thinks her father likes still lending his assistance when she needs it, though.

“He taught me that customers are your number one priority,” Chavez says. They “have helped us make it for 36 years.”

Chavez says the most important thing she learned from her parents helps her run the business as they would.

“They taught me a lot of responsibility and hard work,” she says. “Nothing is going to change.”


State closes 10 Taco Ticos; owner may declare Chapter 11 to try to reopen

UPDATED — At 10 a.m. March 4, the state seized the assets of Ajax International Group, which owns Taco Tico, and closed 10 of the restaurants.

“This is for nonpayment of retail state sales tax,” says Jeannine Koranda, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue. “With that, they seized multiple sites.”

Koranda says there are two warrants against the company.

One, for June through September of 2011, is for $73,315.94. The other, for October 2011 through October 2012, is for $361,623.29.

Owner Mohmood Karim referred calls to his attorney, Bill Zimmerman. Zimmerman says the two most likely options for Karim are to either get on a payment plan or declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“We will do our best to try to get them reopened tomorrow,” Zimmerman says. “Chapter 11 is probably the most straightforward way.”

The seizure included six Wichita Taco Ticos, one in Derby, one in Arkansas City, one in Dodge City and one in Topeka.

“This is the last in a long series of steps that are taken,” Koranda says of the state shutting down a business.

“We always work with the businesses in question,” she says. “If they can go onto a payment plan or work out an arrangement, they will be allowed to reopen.”

Zimmerman says he’s not sure why Karim wasn’t already on a payment plan.

“I know there were a lot of discussions,” he says. “Obviously, the taxes are serious and need to be dealt with.”

The Augusta, Newton and El Dorado Taco Ticos are not corporate restaurants and are still open.

Zimmerman isn’t sure how quickly Karim’s restaurants will be able to reopen.

“We’re certainly going to try to expedite it,” he says. “If they’re out of business, it becomes very difficult to pay the taxes, obviously.”