Juanita’s Mexican Restaurant ‘Flabbergasted’ by Support Following Relocation
longtime local eatery’s recent move into larger space in Altoona marks exciting new chapter for its owners, team
Juanita’s Mexican Restaurant recently made a big move – literally – relocating to 1476 Blazing Star Boulevard, Altoona, from its former longtime location on East Hamilton Avenue in Eau Claire. Juanita’s announced the move on May 30 and reopened at its new 2,000-square-foot space on June 10.
Juanita’s has been a favorite in the Chippewa Valley for decades – it was voted third for Best Tacos in this year’s Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll – but after being in its East Hamilton storefront since 2005, it was time to move into a larger space.
“The biggest reason (we were looking to move) was after we made it through COVID – which was our biggest goal, then – and we just started getting busier and busier and busier,” owner Bethany Chimalhua said. “We realized we needed more space, and I wanted to have a full bar.”
After Za51 announced it would not reopen this spring but instead was looking to lease its space, Cross reached out to take a look.
“That day we went (to see the space), we loved it,” Chimalhua recalled. “It was exactly everything that we had been looking for.”
Now, with a full bar, large outdoor patio, and more than double the amount of indoor seating, the Juanita’s team is ecstatic to continue serving authentic Mexican dishes – like handmade tamales, hand-cut vegetables, prepared meats, margaritas, and more – and expand its offerings.
Although its grand opening in Altoona wasn’t as smooth as the team had hoped – the eatery ran out of a few ingredients, and Chimalhua’s husband ended up in the emergency room after stepping on a stake trying to put a banner up – Juanita’s was met with grace from most customers and has since been wildly busy.
“It’s been (busy) every single day since opening,” Chimalhuasaid. “I didn’t even know it was possible (to be this busy). I use the word ‘flabbergasted’ because I’m so happy, overjoyed, grateful, and stressed – I have all the emotions.”
Juanita’s is just the second occupant of the Altoona building, which was built about six years ago. With its previous owners, pizza was a popular menu item, and the space was equipped with a pizza oven – something the Juanita’s team plans to take advantage of in the future.
Juanita’s plans to expand its current menu with more of its authentic Mexican food – including Mexican-style breakfast which has plans to expand, offered on the weekends beginning at 8am – and pizza. Eventually, they’d like to offer “the best taco pizza you’ve ever had,” Chimalhua said.
Following the peak of the pandemic, many businesses chose not to stay open much later than the evening, and most eateries in the area are not open past 10pm. Juanita’s plans to be an exception, hoping to work up to being open past midnight on weekends.
“We definitely want to start staying open until bar close, but we’ll have to work up to it,” Chimalhua explained. “We’re closing at midnight now, but we have Karaoke Night every Thursday from 9pm-1am.”
The owners’ children, too, have been just as excited and frequently ask to help out. “They come to me like, ‘Mom, are we going to the new Juanita’s office?’ And I love that so much.”
The family attitude extends past the owning family as well, with Chimalhua noting how much it means to her to have staff members who care as much as she does about the business, and having customers who have seen Juanita’s grow to where it is now.
“To go from a really small place with no bar to this huge, organized, blooming business … my staff are, not to toot my own horn, but they’re just so great and so many have grown with this business,” Chimalhua said.
And to new customers as well as longtime loyal customers – many of whom have become familiar faces since 2005 – the owners hope all will continue to grow with them.
“We’re seeing all these new people and there’s so much more space, and at the same time, we see all of our regulars, too,” Chimalhua said. “Those regulars are the ones that have kept us going and have had our backs since day one. I mean, I started working at Juanita’s with my grandma when I was 15, so some of these people have seen me grow up since I was a teenager. It’s just exciting for us all.”
Visit Juanita's Mexican Restaurant at its new location, 1476 Blazing Star Boulevard, Altoona. While the eatery's hours are still solidifying, folks can keep up with Juanita’s on Facebook or give them a call at (715) 318-0862.