Frida’s Mexican Cuisine isn’t named in honor of Frida Kahlo — never mind the multiple self-portraits of the famed artist on the walls of the new Plainview restaurant.
“That was the only name available that wasn’t taken in the area,” owner Rodrigo Sempertegui said with a laugh.
The challenge in coming up with a name for the elegant new eatery on South Oyster Bay Road points, Sempertegui said, to a boom in Mexican restaurants across Long Island and the New York metropolitan area.
“It’s a very popular cuisine — in the past two years, I believe the number of Mexican restaurants in the area has increased by about 35 percent,” he said. “The sun shines on everyone and if you do things right, have great service, a great location and the food is good, then the people will return.”
Frida’s Mexican Cuisine celebrated its grand opening Sept. 13 after a soft opening in late July. It offers a trendy and upscale twist on the menu that his more casual sister restaurant — Frida’s Mexican Grill — began serving in Seaford in 2021.
Sempertegui now has hopes of expanding beyond his current couple of spots.
“Every restaurant is going to be a different design, a different concept, a different decor, a different name,” he said.
How it happened
That Sempertegui even entered the restaurant business still comes as something of a surprise to the Huntington resident, who spent more than 15 years working in real estate investment.
The 42-year-old father of three, who arrived in the United States when he was 19, said he was initially drawn to restaurants as an investor during the pandemic.
“After doing research for a few months, I realized the best and most stable business was opening up a restaurant,” he said. “And the restaurant with the highest rate of return was Mexican, higher than Italian, higher than a steakhouse.
“Luckily, I hired the right people.”
One of those key hires at the start was Francisco Baires, a chef who has worked in restaurants since 1993.
His chef at the new Frida’s is Ciro Lozano.
“He’s been cooking since he was 16,” Sempertegui said of the 25-year-old employee. “He’s very good.”
Sempertegui said he stays “on top of” both restaurants from the business side, while allowing staffers to do their thing.
“Unless there is something in which I need to be involved, it’s up to my managers,” he said. “I do quality control, make sure the customers are happy and I don’t really micromanage because I don’t think it’s conducive to anything positive.”
What has been positive so far, according to Sempertegui, is the response from customers who have been enjoying the Frida’s lunch and dinner entrees, along with its colorful cocktails and a bottomless brunch served on Saturdays and Sundays.
“It’s very early in the game,” he said. “But every week, sales are moving higher, it’s getting better and we already have some regulars that come in two to three times a week.”
The owner said he’s enjoying the shift from the line of work where he spent most of his career.
“I like it, I see the potential,” Sempertegui said. “There’s a lot of risk involved, but you can mitigate those risks when you have the right staff working with you.”
If you go
Frida’s Mexican Cuisine is located at 375 S. Oyster Bay Road in Plainview and is open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.