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Popular Gillette Mexican restaurant expands into Casper market

Hector Ajsivinac, Angel Chuta, and David Contreras pose inside the new Frida’s House Mexican Restaurant in Casper on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. The restaurant is opening a Casper location after finding success in Gillette and Newcastle. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — Casper’s evolving culinary scene will soon include a Mexican restaurant that is an offshoot of one growing in popularity in Gillette.

Restauranteurs Hector Ajsivinac and Angel Chuta opened the first Frida’s House Mexican Food in Gillette in 2020, and despite debuting during the COVID pandemic, they were able to earn a loyal and growing following. They recently moved into the Newcastle market, opening that location in May while still aiming to open something in Casper.

Recently, they contacted the owners of the El Fogon Mexican Restaurant operating inside the former Grab and Go Gourmet at 611 W. Collins. They soon bought the restaurant, and started making a few changes inside. They’re currently waiting on inspections and hope to be open within a week or so.

Frida’s House Mexican Food will be located in a space occupied by Grab and Go Gourmet and El Fogon, respectively. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

In Casper, their Gillette restaurant manager, David Contreras, is joining them as a business partner, something he could only imagine a few years ago.

“It’s been a journey,” said David, who worked in various Gillette restaurants in serving and kitchen jobs. “I was really in fear when I went to ask them for the opportunity,” he said. “Once I started working with [Hector] I started learning a lot.” David, who immigrated from the Jalisco area in Mexico several years back, gained valuable experience as he helped open the Newcastle restaurant, and is thankful to Hector and Angel for the opportunity.

Hector has more than two decades of restaurant experience in Guatemala. He arrived in Gillette in 2008 looking to become an entrepreneur. His business partner Angel is also from Guatemala, and started working in the business at age 11, taking out the trash and doing anything he could to earn money and get experience. The two had talked about opening their own place for years before seeing a Mexican restaurant for sale in Gillette. They struck up a conversation with the owners and were soon on their way.

Unfortunately, according to David, the place didn’t have the best reputation and the space was a bit lacking. Angel said that the undersized kitchen forced them to prepare everything fresh rather than get store-prepared food, and that on-the-spot freshness helped to gain a loyal following, he said.

“Our marketing was the people themselves,” said Angel, with David translating. “When people go to the restaurant, our only main goal was for them to leave happy with the desire to come back.” They did come back, and the restaurant soon moved into a larger space nearby.

Angel says the food might take a bit longer to serve, but that’s because everything is created fresh and on the spot.

Sauces and tortillas will also all be house-made every day, they said. Their tortas — Mexican sandwiches filled with meats and beans — are made with fresh bread sourced from a baker in Gillette. The cuisine is traditional Mexican, with some Guatemalan and Salvadorian flourishes available on the menu, such as pupusas, which are similar to a corn flatbread with bean, cheese or meat filling. David said some of the cocktails were inspired by his home state of Jalisco, the cultural home of Mariachi music and tequila.

Frida’s House Mexican Food is located at 611 W. Collins, near NCHS, and will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday–Saturday and from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Sundays.

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