Local restaurateur Sarah Castillo was one week into the opening of her Near Southside restaurant Tinie’s when city and county orders temporarily shuttered the Mexican restaurant — and the rest of the country. Two months later, Castillo is making plans to rehire some of her original staff for a tentative reopening date during the week of May 25. By then, she hopes the governor will allow 50% occupancy inside restaurants instead of the current 25%.
“There were a lot of people who couldn’t make it [to our March grand opening] because of spring break,” Castillo said. “We are going to have the patio open and dinner downstairs. We will have dinner upstairs as well. It is a gorgeous space.”
Patrons can expect many of the items — the Guac Trio, handmade empanadas, roasted pork — that gave the restaurant considerable local buzz during its first and only week of operation. The menu will be slightly pared down, Castillo said, so it can be managed by a smaller staff.
Castillo said her team is taking great steps to ensure the safety of its workers and patrons. Tinie’s staff will wear face masks (possibly custom-made bandanas, she said), and the restaurant will only use only pre-packaged disposable utensils.
Starting from scratch has been a strange experience, the business owner said. The early shutdown meant the loss of considerable amounts of inventory. Given the unique look and feel of her restaurant, with its homey environs and gorgeous upstairs patio view of Downtown, she hopes to recapture some of the magic of the restaurant’s all-too-brief March opening.
Castillo’s self-described “baby,” Taco Heads, has been operating at 25% occupancy since May 1. After an initial two-week shutdown in March, the Arlington Heights taqueria began serving to-go liquor and to-go meals. The two-week break left Castillo feeling rusty.
“Even with two weeks of not working with your staff, you get out of sync,” she said.
Construction is set to begin soon on Castillo’s other big project, the Stockyards-based Sidesaddle Saloon. The refined bar that promises to embody the brash spirit of Wild West cowgirls and their modern incarnations has a tentative opening date of sometime this fall. Castillo has temporarily pulled plans for construction of an upper-level mezzanine due to the realities of opening a bar in an uncertain economic environment.
Quarantining doesn’t rest well with Castillo’s preferred state: busy. The modest steps being taken to reopen the economy have allowed to her pour her time into her businesses and customers one again, albeit at a physical distance.
“I’m such a touchy-feely person,” Castillo said, describing one of the hardest aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I give hugs all the time. The hospitality industry was always about interacting with people and being close. That’s been a bummer.”
Even with the uncertainty that comes with owning multiple restaurants, Castillo has found renewed appreciation for the recipes she honed in her humble Taco Heads trailer not so long ago. The pending reopening of Tinie’s may come without hugs, but the Fort Worth native said it won’t be without warm welcomes and the simple pleasures that come from a special night out with friends, family, and loved ones.
“It is going to be a great experience,” she said.