New owners spice things up at Carlos & Maria’s in Winter Park
Sooner than later, their secret will be out. Beginning this month, new owners will fire up new flavors at Carlos & Maria’s restaurant.The culinary style has always been something co-owner Brad Mulqueen liked, and he wanted to get back to creating Mexican-style dishes. It’s always been an interest of mine, he said. To me, it’s a comfort food you never get tired of eating.Hot Sulphur Springs residents may recognize Mulqueen from the County Seat Cafe. He cooked there from 1984 to 1998 and served as business partner with his parents, Delores and Jack. But it was his work in the kitchen at the Iron Horse Resort, beginning in 2001, that caught the interest of future business partner Jimmy McLoughlin.McLoughlin moved to Grand County from Chicago, Ill., in 2001 for its simple lifestyle. He worked for McCormick’s Fish House while going to school for a degree in business management and finance, and later at the Pole Creek Tavern after he relocated.He already knew Mike Ayre, who used to own La Taqueria and then worked at the Iron Horse Resort. Ayre was McLoughlin’s childhood friend and introduced him to Mulqueen. The two worked together from 2004 to 2008 and formed McLoughlin & Mulqueen Inc. in 2005.Knowing his friends were looking for business opportunities around town, Ayre mentioned Carlos & Maria’s, which had been for sale for seven years. McLoughlin said they loved the quaint atmosphere and he and Mulqueen looked into the possibility of owning the business. They also appreciated the wonderful family heritage previous owners Chuck and Marie Huston had given it.Carlos & Maria’s doors stayed open as McLoughlin & Mulqueen Inc. took over operations in October. With help from the Hustons, the two learned the nuances of the building and equipment and just kept on going, McLoughlin said.The new owners, having earned their wings to fly solo after a two-month learning curve, have continued the offerings and fun atmosphere. As they familiarize themselves they offer the favorites that have kept people coming for 12 years, with slightly different recipes. Nearly everything, Mulqueen said, is made from scratch.The longer we’re here, the more comfortable we are, McLoughlin said. There’s been a lot of good response from locals and tourists.The restaurant’s fajitas are their biggest seller, which will probably stay in the top sales even as they rework the menu. Until now, the menu has stayed the same, with a hint of what is just around the corner. McLoughlin and Mulqueen are currently working on new dishes, set to be revealed this month. While McLoughlin handles the front of the house, Mulqueen will be behind the line blending together new creative additions.He said the menu will be built around new sauces with flavors and food that make people want to come back. I want it to be a craving. Vegetarian options are also being added. Prices range from $8.50 to $18 with something for the entire family.
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