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New Mexican Spot Carmelita's is Finally Open for Business

The 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 closure, 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.

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