By Nan Royce
HOWARD LAKE The rumors whirling around Howard Lake’s Frontera Cafe and Bistro have been thick in recent weeks. Is the authentic Mexican restaurant closing already? What’s happening with the owners? Why is the building for sale?
Talk to the source
Frontera owner Carlos Olivar was willing to answer all of those questions Nov. 21.
“We’re in the middle of a storm,” he said, “and we’re trying to figure out what to do.”
Frontera is open, for now.
Olivar said Frontera will, for the time being, only be open on weekends. He and his wife, Nooreen, are in the process of finding jobs they can work elsewhere during the week.
Why have they made the decision to limit their hours? That, Olivar said, can be attributed directly to a lack of customers.
Although Frontera’s online reviews have been solidly stellar, the number of people coming into the restaurant has been less than ideal, according to Olivar.
Frontera has been reviewed on one online site 113 times. One-hundred-and-one of those reviews gave the restaurant a perfect five. And eight other reviewers gave it a respectable four.
Olivar admits Frontera began to struggle financially last winter, when the cold weather increased utility bills, and kept customers at home. “The utilities were killing us,” he said.
Giving it their all
Olivar said he, Nooreen, and members of their families worked exceptionally hard to make Frontera a place everyone would enjoy and would want to visit frequently.
“We tried everything,” Olivar said. “Mondays died. The buffet didn’t work.”
The Olivar family listened to customers’ ideas and implemented those, as well.
“There are just not enough people coming through the doors” Olivar said.
Olivar and family are not giving up. He said someone is interested in purchasing the building, but he is adamant that he owns the restaurant.
He also said he has found a potential investment partner who may be able to come in with some funds to help Frontera through this lean season.
Olivar has also given thought to switching up the restaurant’s theme.
Grabbing for the American dream
“We’re just a working family, trying to build our dream and make it happen,” Olivar said. “We’re doing our best. We just need some support so we can stay in business.”
The authentic menu
The Olivar family has always taken pride in the quality and authenticity of the food they prepare and serve. Frontera’s menu is extensive; it includes sections for appetizers; burgers; soup and sandwiches; and several American entrée choices.
Of course, there is a full selection of Mexican cuisine, all of which are authentic. Some of those selections include, jalapeños rellenos; tamales; seven specialized tacos; mole poblano; enchiladas; steak borracho; and huarache.
The Frontera menu also lists “crossover” options such as chimichanga; quesadilla; fajitas; and burritos.
All the Olivar family needs right now is for people to come to Frontera, enjoy the food, spread the word, and come back soon.
“We’re hanging by a thread, and hoping for the best,” Olivar said.
The Frontera Cafe and Bistro is located at 728 6th Street in Howard Lake. The phone number is (320) 543-1199.
NOTE-UPDATE- Since this story came out, the owner has posted on social media that the business is now closed for good.