Chattanooga resident and Guatemala native Benjamin Lemus has been around the restaurant industry for decades, but he’s working on a new venture that is closer to his roots.
His brother, Jacob Lemus, and Lee Epstein, the men behind City Café Diner, are partnering on the new project, called Mayan Kitchen, which will be at 507 Broad St.-the former Sugar’s Ribs location.
“Our dream was to build a restaurant that reflects who we are,” Benjamin said. “City Café is what we learned how to do, but it’s not our food.”
The new restaurant will serve traditional Latin-American food, such as Mexican-style cuisine, but will also introduce Guatemalan dishes with Mayan roots to Chattanooga diners, he said.
The owners understand that everyone may not be comfortable trying something new, so that’s why they are offering a variety of dishes.
“The specialty food is not well-known; it’s really good but not well-known,” he said. “When people come, if they don’t feel like risking it, we will have fajitas and all the stuff people really know from [Latin America].”
Benjamin doesn’t want people to think of the venture as a Mexican restaurant, though. He said that food transcends borders and some of the dishes will be unique offerings for the area.
There will also be a “humongous” bar for people who like tequila, he said.
The 6,500-square-foot restaurant will seat 180 people, and owners will likely hire between 75 and 100 employees.
The location is ideal for foot traffic and tourists, and the interior will “reflect outdoor seating while being inside,” he said.
“We want to make customers feel like they really are not in the area,” he said.