DALLAS — A mix of Latin American flavors has made its way to downtown Dallas.
Rice ’N Beans Express, a Puerto Rican and Mexican fusion restaurant, opened its doors May 12.
The eatery moved into an empty restaurant space formerly occupied by Dexter’s Dish at 2834 Memorial Hwy., next to Domino’s Pizza. The Back Mountain location marks the third for business partners Marco Justo and Maria Cortes of Bethlehem.
It almost didn’t happen, though. Justo had originally thought of opening his business in Lackawanna County.
“A friend mentioned to me the Scranton area was a growing area,” Justo said.
When he came to the northeastern region to scope out locations, he found himself drawn to the Back Mountain.
“I liked the area and this space (referring to the restaurant),” he said. “The kitchen was all ready. It has a big walk-in freezer.”
Also, Justo researched his neighbor, Domino’s, and found the pizza take-out business was there for many years.
“This is a busy road,” he said.
Mexican-style cuisine with Peruvian seasonings has created an instant customer attraction, Justo said.
“I expected it would take two to three months to gain a following,” Justo said. “We had a big crowd on opening day. We are getting a good response from the community.”
Justo, a trained psychologist, learned he had a passion for cooking when he moved to America.
“It was hard to get into my field when I moved to the U.S.,” he said. “I began working as a cook at restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays, Olive Garden and Applebee’s.”
Justo learned how to blend Puerto Rican flavors with Mexican-style cuisine from Cortes. Now the duo creates dishes such as the Fried Breaded Flounder Bowl, which includes their signature rice and beans, salad, fresh salsa and cheddar cheese.
Customers can also enjoy a variety of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, salads and much more.
“We do offer vegetarian and gluten-free items,” Justo said. “Our rice and beans, which are the red kidney beans, are gluten-free and vegetarian. Our meats are gluten-free, except for the fish that is breaded.”
Justo said the vegetarian menu items are made separately from others that require meats.
“I know that is an issue for vegetarians,” he said.
The restaurateurs try to accommodate their customers by offering online orders, pick-up and delivery services within a four-mile radius, Justo said.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.