“We’re going to reopen Aleyda’s!” Miguel Lopez had a hard time holding back his excitement in announcing the news that he’d bring back the Mexican restaurant that stood as an icon for decades on Okeechobee Boulevard.
It was a high contrast to his tearful call in May when he described the pain of having to close the restaurant he owned with his sister and namesake of the restaurant, Aleyda Cardona. A dispute with the landlord of the plaza west of I-95 caused the close, he said. “He (the landlord) wanted to go more upscale and Aleyda’s didn’t fit his vision. He’s thinking Palm Beachers are going to come over here. He complained about the pickup trucks in our parking lot, among a lot of other things.”
At that point, Lopez was unsure what the future would hold and was worried about his long-time staff that he called family. “I plan to travel and think things over. I need a rest.”
He said he’s been taking his time during the process, trying to relax. “But no income is coming in, so I had to do something. I have to work – it’s in my blood.”
Plans for the new place came about after a meeting with the revitalization group from Northwood Village. “We’re working with the CRA in Northwood – they’re being great,” he said. The city of West Palm Beach had approached him in May, and even the mayor was sympatheic over the dispute with the landlord, he said.
“They offered me a great spot in a building on the west end of Northwood Road – 602. It’s such a blessing – they’re going to build it out for me, put in the grease traps, put in an addition that will be the kitchen. They’re putting up awnings in the front and on the west side, so we’ll have outdoor dining. And we’ll have a bar inside. They’re even helping with the design of the interior.”
The CRA has an ongoing plan to upgrade the neighborhood, putting in a fountain and courtyard on the east side of the 602 building, adding to the ambiance, Lopez said.
Cardona will have a lesser role in the day-to-day operations, but will lend her name to the restaurant. She presently lives in Orlando where she cares for a daughter. “I told her it’s time to take it easy and let me do the work,” Lopez said. “We’re going to use her for special events – people are asking for her already – and asking me when we’re going to open. When we have our opening, we’ll have a drawing where you can win dinner at your house cooked by us with Aleyda. That’s just one of the things we’ll do; we’re planning lots more things like that.”
The new restaurant will feature a menu similar to the old one, but pared back, with American items next to the Mexican. “We’ll have a great burger, and wings, along with enchiladas, though not so many. The crab and other unusual ones will be specials only.”
Other projects are in the works, Lopez said. “We have other plans, maybe for another location,” he said. “And there are some other big things I can’t talk about just yet, but they’re big – and exciting.”
“This will give us a chance to do what we were supposed to be what we wanted to do,” Lopez said. “Aleyda was old-school and didn’t want to change what had made it a success years ago. But in order to make it today, you need a good creative team on board and think outside the box. That’s what’s set for us in the future. We’ve just got to play our cards right.”
He said neighbors, including Billy Manthy of Malakor Thai, and artists along the street have welcomed him already and are excited by the news. “I’m going to have artwork from the local artists in my restaurant for sale. We’ll help each other out – it’s the right thing to do.”
Plans are to open Aleyda’s in February.