Updated: Dec 30, 2021
LA CYGNE – A little over a week ago, a state health inspection gave Oscar Martinez the go-ahead to open his modest Mexican food eatery. Located in a nondescript, white masonry building at 328 E. Market Street between Broadway and Fourth Street in La Cygne, the only indication that it was a business was the neon “Open” sign in the window.
With the sign for the exterior still on order, Martinez figured to build on a slow roll out of the business, Quik Taco, and hoped that at least few people would stop in and buy breakfast, lunch or dinner. That would give him time to fine-tune his operation, get a credit card reader, take care of some details and maybe even change some menu items.
But as word of a new restaurant traveled rapidly – along with perhaps a pent-up demand for freshly prepared Mexican food – people were packing in to buy their meals, either sitting at about a dozen tables in the restaurant or having take-out.
Martinez and his helper, Rosie Whitney, scrambled to keep customers fed and ran into several obstacles. With no credit card reader, the fledgling restaurant was forced to request payments in cash only.
That sent those who had planned to pay with a card to neighboring businesses and ATMs looking for cash to get their taco fix. As of late last week, the restaurant was still working to fix the credit card issue, but Martinez said he hoped to have it resolved soon.
“I never expected for people to respond like that,” Martinez said of the crush of customers.
A former construction worker, Martinez, a single parent, moved with his daughter, Alina, to Linn Valley about a year ago after living several years in Lawrence. He continued to commute to the metropolitan area to work, and Alina attended Prairie View Middle School.
It wasn’t until they had lived in Linn Valley about three months that he discovered the town of La Cygne was close by. Tired of commuting to work at his brother’s construction company, Martinez made plans to make his break from the long commutes and embrace a profession he longed to do: cooking.
On Friday afternoon when Quik Taco had just closed after the noon rush, Martinez was cutting chunks of beef to be used in cooking when the restaurant reopened at 4:30 p.m. He worked quickly, expertly slicing and dicing the meat.
Except for storage, most of the food preparation takes place near the counter where customers order and pay.
“Here, we cook in front of people,” Martinez said. “You see what you eat.”
He said most restaurants, particularly Mexican restaurants, cooked food in a kitchen out of view from the customer. But he said he has taken an approach more often used in Chinese restaurants where food is prepared in the open.
In order to catch the breakfast crowd, Quik Taco opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant closes for the day at 3 p.m. on Sundays.
However, it closes at 2:30 p.m. to give the staff time to catch up Mondays through Saturdays before reopening at 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. to serve the evening meal.
Martinez also said that Quik Taco welcomes customers to pre-order meals by phone or text for fast pickup. The number to reach by either means is (913) 293-4870.