The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Paradiso in Minot might have a new location that includes a building with striking visual upgrades and a bigger staff to serve customers, but the chips are still free.
On Oct. 15, Paradiso closed its Dakota Square location for good and opened its brand new restaurant at 1445 S. Broadway three days later. Although the old phone number still works, Paradiso has a new number that will help remind customers of the Broadway address - 837-1445.
Matt Walkowiak, operations manager for Atlas Foods, which owns all five Paradiso locations in North Dakota, said the new store was actually supposed to open Nov. 1, but Innes Construction out of Grand Forks was able to finish ahead of schedule despite weather-related setbacks that put the basement and foundation behind schedule.
Walkowiak said they had been thinking about moving for a couple years, and when the opportunity arose they wasted no time making a decision.
"We saw the potential, obviously with what's going to be happening in Minot over the next several years. We didn't own the building where we were at, so remodeling wasn't as appetizing as it would be to build our own building," Walkowiak said. "This became available so we decided to jump on it and go big."
When Walkowiak says "go big," he isn't kidding. The new restaurant is more than twice as large as the old one, offering twice the customer seating and far more storage space in the basement. There is also a freight elevator that allows distributors to easily get their deliveries downstairs. To accomodate the new seating occupancy, which is now 315, the staff has doubled to around 150.
"We're in it for the long haul," Walkowiak said.
Although they did a ribbon cutting with the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, Walkowiak said other than that they didn't want to make a big deal out of opening the new location. He preferred having a smooth transition to the new store over making a big fuss with a special grand opening.
"Word of mouth, we feel, is our best mode of advertising right now," he said.
Customers haven't been afraid to speak their mind about the new restaurant, and Walkowiak said one of the more surprising things, to him at least, is that much of the praise that has been heaped on Paradiso has revolved around its new location.
"A lot of people have been saying that the old one was out of the way. I would think by the mall would be actually (more convenient)," he said. "I've been shocked. I've heard that on several occasions, that this is more convenient."
If the Broadway location has one shortcoming, Walkowiak said it would have to be parking. Since the opening, they have literally been doing double the business of the old location, and every night Paradiso's parking lot seems to be jammed.
Walkowiak said Conlin's Furniture allows them to use the south side of its lot for employee parking, so that helps some, but space in Paradiso's lot is still at a premium during the lunch and supper rushes.
He also noted they have call-ahead seating, so customers worried about crowds can call ahead of time to get on a list and hopefully be seated more quickly when they do show up.
Another thing people seem to love about the new restaurant are the large chandeliers hanging over the main dining room. Walkowiak said people seem mesmerized by them, and they also add to the big, open, airy feeling of the room that customers also rave about. They've also received a lot of good comments on the granite countertops in the Cantina, which are visually striking.
Walkowiak said the new Minot store actually fits the mold of the other four locations in Fargo, Jamestown, Bismarck and Grand Forks. The old Minot store at Dakota Square was different because Atlas Foods leased the building starting in 1999 and there was only so much they could do with it.
"I think it will be good for brand awareness for us. I've heard a lot of people say, 'Oh, it looks like the Grand Forks one now,' or 'It looks like the Fargo one,'" Walkowiak said. "I think that will be better for the corporation as a whole."
Although there are no menu changes, Walkowiak said the bigger Cantina will give them some definite advantages over the old location.
"Obviously, with the bigger Cantina we'll be offering more drink specials. We've got our regular happy hour every day and then we've got the free taco bar Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 (p.m.). So that draws people in after work," he said. "There's full meat and bean dip and queso. We've got the soft and hard shells. It's more of a (full-featured taco bar)."
Another big change in the Cantina can be seen on the walls in the form of nine large HDTVs. Walkowiak said three more 58-inch models are already planned to be added to the west wall.
"We have all the DirecTV sports packages, the NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL League Pass, NBA. So we like to provide a good little sports bar over there for people," Walkowiak said. "There's really nowhere besides Buffalo Wild Wings in town to go to watch that stuff."
"This is bigger, brighter, we're no smoking obviously, so I think that'll be a plus," he added.
One addition that hasn't been added to the Minot store yet is online ordering. It's currently being tested in Fargo and Grand Forks and allows customers to go online at (www.paradiso.com) to place a to-go order from the full menu and allows them to pick the exact time they want to pick it up. There's even areas for special instructions on how the food should be cooked and anything else the customer wants. Walkowiak thinks this will be coming to Minot within six months.
"That's a pretty handy tool," he said.
Walkowiak said he loves the way the new store has turned out, and so do the customers. He noted there's really nothing on Broadway as far as a fast casual restaurant until you get south of town, so he believes the new location will be a great asset to Minot as well as Paradiso.
"We're glad to be part of the growth of Minot and provide jobs and a good place for people to come and relax and enjoy our Mexican atmosphere," he said.