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Pepe’s Opening on Church Street

Written By Scott Joseph On May 22, 2017

Mary sidebar

Pepe’s Cantina, the Hannibal Square restaurant and winner of the 2017 Best Tex-Mex Foodster Award for Independent Restaurants, is opening a second location in downtown Orlando on Church Street in the space that most recently was Mary’s Side Bar Cafe. Pepe’s owner Stuart Kirban said by phone Monday that he is hoping to have the new restaurant up and running in about three weeks.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Kirban said. “That area has been revitalized. I think there’s going to be a lot of activity down there.”

The new Pepe’s will have the same menu as the Winter Park location, but Kirban expects that the clientele might be a bit different. “Younger single people, maybe,” he said. “We have a lot of families in Winter Park.”

Of course, the other news in this story is that Mary’s Side Bar Cafe has closed there. That was of course the venture from the owners of the Hamburger Mary’s franchise next door that was originally meant to offer “something with a Mary’s flair,” according to co-owner John Paonessa, but with a different menu.

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But shortly after the Mary men opened the space next door, last fall, Side Bar struggled. The hours were cut back, breakfast and lunch were eliminated, and soon it was open only for overflow on the weekend evenings and for concerts and sporting events at downtown venues.

“We found the people who came downtown to Mary’s wanted Mary’s,” Paonessa said in an email.

Still, he added, using the space for overflow was “very profitable,” but the landlord wanted it open every day, “and we respected that.”

This is the address, 120 W. Church St., where Church Street Tavern was until it closed permanently last summer (after having been shuttered twice in one month by health inspectors). And before that, The Dessert Lady served her popular confections here.

Kirban said he won’t be be doing any major remodeling of the historic space, “Just a little painting.”

Watch for updates.

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