A Comedic Turn

Tex-Mex restaurant empire that claimed women only care about margaritas goes out of business

Tex-Mex restaurant empire that claimed women only care about margaritas goes out of business

Maggie Rita's Modern Mix, exterior, restaurant
Goodbye, Maggie Rita . . . the Tex-Mex branch on Shepherd is officially closed. Maggie Rita's/Facebook
Carlos Mencia, comedian
Carlos Mencia owns the Maggie Rita's concept with Houston restaurateur Santiago Moreno. Carlos Mencia/Facebook
Maggie Rita's Modern Mix, exterior, restaurant
Carlos Mencia, comedian

Maggie Rita's grand experiment in Tex-Mex appears to be coming to an end.

Just six months after unleashing his Maggie Rita's concept on Houston, restaurateur Santiago Moreno told the Houston Business Journal that his third and final branch on Shepherd was officially kaput. Two others on Kirby and Post Oak, both of which had been Ninfa's, were closed in late 2012.

"We've found out consumer decisions are made by women," co-owner Santiago Moreno told Eater. 

The new brand got off to a rocky start this July when Moreno — who co-owns the Maggie Rita's chain with comedian Carlos Mencia — explained to Eater why he abandoned his five-year working relationship with Ninfa's to start a concept.

"We've found out consumer decisions are made by women," he noted. "When we track what makes a woman decide where to eat Mexican food, it has to do with margaritas. It has nothing to do with food."

As such, Moreno and Mencia unveiled a dining concept geared towards margarita-loving women and other "clients who grew up with Taco Bell as Mexican food."

By August, the Houston Press' Katherine Shilcutt raked Maggie Rita's over the coals with a review featuring descriptors like rubbery, lifeless and laughable.

"When we track what makes a woman decide where to eat Mexican food, it has to do with margaritas. It has nothing to do with food." 

The downfall came as no surprise, according to Moreno — according to a recent conversation with the Houston Business Journal.

“It’s been coming for a while, we started seeing that the business was having trouble for a while and wasn’t able to meet the bottom line," he said. "We would invest cash to keep it going, but now it is just not feasible.”

Moreno, saddened by the closures, cited high rent cost as the main culprit.

“I didn’t get in to the business to have to close it down, but unfortunately, it happened . . . Obviously, nobody likes to open just to shut down. But it worked out better for us this way.”

For anyone still yearning for that special Maggie Rita's atmosphere, one final branch — owned by another other restaurateur — is still open at the Chase Tower downtown.