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Carmelita's Opens Another Restaurant—In Laguna Beach

The fourth Carmelita's restaurant occupies the old Crab Zone space, which was vacant for two years.

Two years after the Crab Zone left, and one year almost to the day after the Laguna Beach Planning Commission gave the go-ahead, Carmelita's, a Mexican restaurant near one of the city's busiest intersections, has finally opened at 217 Broadway.

Carmelita's official opening is this Friday, Sept. 14, but the wait staff have been serving food and drinks since Monday's soft opening.

The site was supposed to have been turned into a link in the Chipotle chain after the Crab Zone closed, but the planning commission turned them down for a variety of reasons, including questionable upgrades to the building they wanted to implement, as well as parking and seating issues. The fact that the city's Downtown Specific Plan has a general disdain for large national chains (Chipotle has over 1,000 locations nationwide) also might have had something to do with it.

No matter now. Carmelita's is a small, family-owned and operated restaurant with only three other locations, two in the Sacramento area, and one in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Manager Clementi Heredia says that his restaurant's Monday debut got crazy busy not long after its 5 p.m. opening.

"There was a 30-minute wait at one point," Heredia told Patch the day after, as he ushered a few customers inside.

After Friday, Carmelita's will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day except Sunday, when they'll close up the kitchen at 9 p.m. Heredia also says Carmelita's will serve breakfast on the weekends in about six months.

And although the Laguna Beach location doesn't have much of an Internet presence yet, you can peruse a PDF menu from one of the Sacramento locations in the photo box up above, and "like" them through the Rancho Santa Margarita restaurant's Facebook page right here.

April Josephson September 12, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I hope they do well there. It is a prime location. I actually worked in that building as a high school student when it was Swenson's ice cream parlor. There's a rich history in that property...On clear winter days, you can look out the window and see Catalina. :-)
Rich Kane September 12, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Do tell, April ... what else do you know about that building?
April Josephson September 13, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Rich, I'm sure there are a lot of long-time Lagunans that can provide better info. When it was Swenson's, the current food court was the parking lot. One of my regular customers was Harriet Nelson. I still remember her usual order...

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