Gonzales said, "In Arizona, there's a Mexican restaurant on every corner. There, it is mainstream. Here it is not so mainstream but it is popular."
He said that since opening, Mi Cocina de Amor has been busy; there was an hour wait last Friday for dinner.
Not every Mexican restaurant venture in the region has succeeded. For example, El Portal Mexican Restaurant & Grill opened last March on 7th Avenue in South Charleston and closed six months later.
Nevertheless, the Mexican restaurant category — and related varieties — continues to expand. Examples:
* The family of Alex Garcia opened Casa Garcia in 2005 in Riverwalk Plaza. A few months later Jose Lopez opened Los Agaves Restaurant in a former Shoney's in South Charleston. Now Lopez also has restaurants in Dunbar and Parkersburg.
* After opening in Clarksburg and Marietta, Ohio, Las Trancas Mexican Cuisine opened in 2010 in the Southridge Centre building that formerly housed Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill.
* Qdoba Mexican Grill moved into the region last year, opening restaurants at Dudley Farms Plaza in February and at the Charleston Town Center in August.
* Also last August, the Hardee's restaurant at 612 MacCorkle Ave. in South Charleston added the Red Burrito menu, which features fresh burritos and other authentic Mexican-style items like taco salad, nachos and soft- and hard-shell tacos.
The Hardee's franchisee, Restaurant Management Group, said the South Charleston restaurant was its 22nd location to add the Red Burrito menu. There are now more than 300 dual-branded Hardee's-Red Burrito restaurants across the Midwest and Southeast.
* There is a sign next to the Fujiyama Japanese Sushi and Steak House in Kanawha City that says a La Caretta Mexican restaurant will soon open next door.
Contact writer George Hohmann at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.