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Las Margaritas opens in Woodbury

Nora Perez poses with her staff at the new Las Margaritas in Woodbury Commons. The restaurant specialized in authentic Mexican cuisine.

A family restaurant chain with a precedent for being a town favorite in its other east metro locations has launched in Woodbury, with hopes for the same results.

Las Margaritas opened late last month at its location in Woodbury Commons at the northeast corner of Hudson Road and Woodbury Drive.

The restaurant, which puts a heavy concentration on the traditional side of Mexican cuisine, is one that also puts an emphasis on fun, said co-owner and operator Nora Perez.

"Just being here, talking to people, making friends with regular customers, it's never boring," said Perez, who owns the restaurant chain with husband Juan and sister-in law Rosa Castro.

From the traditional mariachi music buzzing through the speakers, to the margaritas (restaurant features a full bar) and the colorful interior design, the newest of three Las Margaritas locations (the others are in Hastings and Cottage Grove), the menu aims for authenticity, but caters to the fans of American-ized Mexican cuisine as well, Perez said.

"We have a lot of authentic Mexican items on the menu, but a lot of other dishes, like the chimichanga, that aren't authentic to Mexico, but we know people like."

For those familiar with Las Margaritas on Highway 61 in Hastings or just off 80th Street in Cottage Grove, the recipes and menus (including the free chips and salsa) will be replicated at the Woodbury location, which was most recently housed an Umbria Pizza.

"We brought one of our cooks and servers from Hastings and three servers from Cottage Grove, because we know the experienced staff will help get things on track right away," Perez said.

And Perez said the pattern of success at the other restaurants will be followed in the details at the Woodbury location right down to the color coordinated polo shirts that staff wear. Each day of the week all the staff wears the same color uniform, which ranges from pink, blue, orange and red.

"If you happen to be at the Hastings location the same day as Woodbury, all the staff will be wearing the same color at both locations," Perez said. "The regular customers think it's fun to guess which shirts we will be wearing before they come in."

The Perez and Castro families first got into the restaurant ownership business in the 1990s when Hector and Rosa Castro opened a restaurant in LaCrosse, Wis. They moved to Hastings and launched Las Margaritas in 2003 at a building that formerly housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken.

"Hastings didn't have a Mexican restaurant at the time, so it became popular right away," Perez said. The Cottage Grove location was added a few years later.