Hola, Las Brisas

Thursday, January 17, 2008
Cristobal Marquez is the owner of Las Brisas in Scott City. It is the family-owned chain's third restaurant in Southeast Missouri, with other locations in Malden and Charleston. (Fred Lynch)

When the Marquez family wanted to expand their small chain of Las Brisas Mexican restaurants, they found what they were looking for in Scott City.

"We drove here and saw this empty place, and we liked the location," said Cristobal Marquez, owner of the newest Las Brisas in Scott City. The place they found was the former home of Scott City's Sonic Drive-In, which closed last year.

Now the Marquez family has set up shop in the piece of prime real estate, right on Scott City's Main Street, near the intersection of Interstate 55.

And Scott City locals are getting their first taste of authentic Mexican in their hometown since Maria's Place in the city's Old Illmo section closed a few years ago.

The Scott City restaurant is the third Las Brisas in Southeast Missouri. The chain started three years ago with a restaurant in Malden, then expanded to Charleston and, a little over two weeks ago, to Scott City.

Fajitas is one of the dishes served at Las Brisas in Scott City. (Fred Lynch)

Three brothers in the Marquez family own the restaurants, Cristobal Marquez said. Every Las Brisas is staffed by family members (siblings and in-laws, primarily), said Cristobal Marquez. And the restaurant business itself has become a family tradition.

Cristobal Marquez' family moved to California from the town of Jesus Maria near Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico when Cristobal was a child. His father worked as a cook in authentic Mexican restaurants, and many of his five sons and seven daughters followed in his footsteps.

The family theme carries through in several aspects of the Las Brisas ethic.

Cristobal Marquez said the restaurants are meant as places where families can dine cheaply in a child-friendly atmosphere.

Where most Mexican restaurants in Southeast Missouri serve alcoholic drinks, Las Brisas doesn't in order to make their locations good for families. There's no smoking, either.

Marquez hopes his customers appreciate the environment and keep coming back. He knows regulars are important to small-town businesses and wants to tap into that dynamic.

So far, it seems to be working.

On almost any day of the week (Las Brisas is open all seven) the restaurant is near full at lunch, with a mix of families and workers on lunch break. The drive-through window also sees plenty of action.

And Cristobal Marquez said the locals have taken well to him and his family. The Marquez family, though they come from a foreign land, already feel welcome in Scott City.

Judging from their hearty business, their food is welcome, too.

Las Brisas is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

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