By Darren Lum
A new restaurant owner is hoping to share her love and passion for Mexico with the Village of Haliburton when it opens on May 20.
Claudette Pitre said opening her eatery, Poquito Loco is about following her heart.
“It feels like a passion project and to me it feels like the community needs it. Maybe not as much as I do, but we need something new,” she said.
Getting ready to serve tacos and other popular Mexican dishes at the Haliburton location, overlooking Head Lake, touches on a memorable experience, Pitre said.
She said a month-long stay, living in San Pancho, Mexico with her husband and two young children, who are now in their twenties was the foundation to starting this restaurant, located at 48 Highland Street.
“We fell in love with the culture and the food,” she said. “Since we spent all that time in Mexico it’s kind of become a thing at our house where I have Mexican nights. Everybody loves the food that I cook … we had always thought of opening an eatery because there are three things I cook really well. One is Italian. One is Greek. One is Mexican. We went with Mexican basically because it’s healthy, and affordable for the people.”
She adds there was attention towards food that was affordable to attract students and be easy to order and carry away from the leased location.
Spanish for “a little crazy,” the restaurant name and the sentiment behind it is correlated to the time and circumstances of life now, Pitre said.
“It kind of encompasses me opening a restaurant during the pandemic and me being a little crazy,” she said. “But at this point it really is what do I have to lose?”
She adds it is her goal to serve people quality food made from fresh ingredients, including locally sourced meat and anything else possible. This is part of her effort to support the community, she said.
“We have really good suppliers right at our fingertips,” she said.
Pitre even employed local artist Robert Van Nood to create the donkey that appears in the restaurant’s sign.
During the early 2000s, Pitre ran the kitchen, cooking at the Hair Lounge in Carnarvon, which was run with husband Mark Christiano. The Lounge was a popular spot for years, holding open mic nights and other evening events.
The return to the food industry is related to how the pandemic shutdown parts of the economy more than a year ago.
Pitre had been working within the live entertainment industry before the pandemic shut everything down. Just before the shutdowns, her work was very busy. Although her husband was going to continue to work in Haliburton, as a popular hair stylist, they planned to rent a place in Toronto because of the work and because it was closer to her two children in university. Luckily, she said, the circumstances allowed them to get out of the agreement.
“It went from going crazy to having nothing,” she said.
Pitre said this will be a family-run business, which will include her husband and, periodically, her young adult children.
For now, the menu will be fairly simple with beef, chicken and vegetarian tacos. This includes the slow cooked seasoned meat, (beef) barbacoa. The menu will include burritos, tostadas, quesadillas and rice bowls, including salads. The taco shells will be made from corn, white flour and whole wheat tortillas. Operating hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.
“If there is a demand [I will] change accordingly,” she said, referring to the menu and the operating hours.
Items for individuals will start at $5 for a taco and up to $14 for a platter. Take out family platters will be available, which would include all of the various components to assemble later when the customer gets home.
The focus at the location will be on takeout due to very limited indoor seating with three tables. However, Pitre said she hopes to expand the outdoor seating to triple what it is by adding picnic tables and seating to face the lake. She said the way the interior will be set up will be similar to Mucho Burrito – counter of ingredients where a server takes selections to top a shell or fill a wrap. Pitre said catering will also be an option as well as the take out.
For many people this year has been a struggle.
This new venture is about changing that narrative and to create an opportunity from a challenging situation because of the pandemic.
“Really I needed to breathe new life into our existence. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t handle not being productive and being with people because that’s what I’ve always done. I always worked with the public. Sitting at home is not an option for me. Even [not] being around people is not an option. Even though there are risks in that it’s something I need to do,” she said.