With its colorfully painted exterior brick walls and looming cactus, Casa Tequila (3229 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 504-443-5423; www.facebook.com/casatequilakenner) looks like the quintessential casual Mexican joint. "We're a hole in the wall," says general manager Cammy Gaspar. "People are surprised when they come in and taste our food."
A Kenner mainstay since the 1990s, the 4,000-square-foot restaurant recently changed hands when longtime owner Jesse Whitbeck retired in 2014. The new owners, brothers Julio and Ricardo Appenzeller, worked as busboys and dishwashers at Casa Tequila as teenagers.
"They retained a relationship by coming in to dine," Gaspar says. "[Whitbeck] watched their families grow up. He was impressed with their loyalty to the restaurant." When Whitbeck retired, the brothers bought the restaurant.
Casa Tequila closed for renovations and reopened in May 2014. New menu items were added, but favorites made with the old recipes remained. "We got lots of phone calls when we changed ownership, saying, 'Don't change the bean dip,'" Gaspar says. Made from a secret recipe that's been refined over the years, the popular appetizer is made with dried beans and comes with chips and salsa. Head chef Reyna (who declined to give her last name) is the only employee who knows the recipe.
"She's trained everyone who's gone through that kitchen," Gaspar says. "She puts a lot of love in her cooking. We've added some new dishes and she's helped us perfect them. We're very fortunate to have her here."
Other menu items include fajitas and combination plates, both veteran dishes, as well as mixed drinks, including the restaurant's signature margaritas. Mexican tacos are the most requested new dish. Made with beef tongue, beef cheek, pork al Pastor and served with corn tortillas and spicy jalapeno sauce, the dish is popular with younger customers.
"We cater to our customers," Gaspar says. "When they want to change things up, we take pride in personalizing our food."
Most of the clientele consists of regulars, some of whom have dined at the restaurant since it opened in 1991. Weekends regularly feature live music, and on Oct. 31, the restaurant will host local Spanish rock band ManzaNota. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers catering. Casa Tequila delivers as far as the Northshore and Houma.
"We want to bring an enjoyable experience to everyone," Gaspar says. "Our customers appreciate the special attention they get."