The owner of a former Greenbank restaurant is taking a second stab at his dream in a new location.
Molka Xete, a Mexican restaurant, reopened late last month at 4 Front Street in Coupeville. The restaurant first opened in Greenbank in 2018 before closing two years later in June 2020.
Owner Mario Saenz said while the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor, the primary reason for the closure was that the owner of the space “envisioned something else for the building,” and he and his wife, Veronica Saenz, decided to go in a different direction.
They did not know that it would be three years before they would open Molka Xete’s doors again, but Mario said they always knew they were not giving up on the restaurant.
“It wasn’t a good-bye, but more of an ‘until later,’” he said.
After a wildly successful first few weeks at the new location, Mario said Front Street is shaping up to be a better fit. New faces have mingled with familiar ones as Molka Xete’s former regulars have come in to eat at the recently reopened eatery.
The couple’s previous restaurant experience has been invaluable to them during the reopening, Mario said. Because they ran Molka Xete previously, they had a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for their reopening last month.
“Now we kind of have that experience, even though it’s been a couple years,” he said.
Mario takes great pride in the Molka Xete menu. Everything is made to order from scratch, with all fresh ingredients, he said. The chips are fried in house daily, and eggplant can be substituted for meat for a vegetarian option.
With plenty of options for customization, he added, every dish is flexible. He encouraged patrons with special requests or questions about the menu to simply ask.
“However you want to enjoy your meal is however we want to serve it to you,” he said.
Mario and Veronica moved to Whidbey Island in 2017. They both grew up in southern Texas and Mexico, though Whidbey has come to feel like home to them, Mario said. They always knew they wanted to own a restaurant. The pair also owns The Beary Scoop in Freeland.
Molka Xete is a family affair. Mario’s and Veronica’s parents make up most of the staff and have gone out of their way to support their children’s endeavor.
Mario said he hopes to expand the menu in the not too distant future, though for now, he is focusing on hiring and training more staff and serving the highest quality food possible.
He said he and Veronica hope that by operating a successful business, they will be able to put themselves in a position to give back to their parents and the community.