La Barca restaurant expects to open next month

DOWNEY − After months of construction delays, La Barca Grill and Cantina, located on the corner of Paramount Boulevard and Third Street, is nearing completion and expected to open its doors next month, according to restaurant owner Guillermo Padilla. "We're waiting for the health inspector," said Padilla. "Most of the staff is already hired, we just need to do a few things. We're hoping and praying the inspection comes in the next two weeks or so." Last December, Padilla announced that he would launch a second location of his popular, Los Angeles-based Mexican eatery in Downey upon acquiring the vacant building that formerly housed Szechwan Chinese Restaurant, and later Portofino's. Padilla had hoped to open the restaurant this year, but encountered several setbacks during the expansive renovation. "We've been behind due to delays in construction," said Padilla who acknowledged costs have skyrocketed. "We had a number at the beginning, but the number keeps going up. We put in new plumbing, new electrical − there's an all new kitchen." The nearly 7,200-sqaure-foot restaurant, renovated by Murguia Construction Company, also features two service bars, a banquet room with seating for 40-50 people, and a separate sports bar facing Third Street. With 19 televisions mounted on walls all around the restaurant, Padilla said La Barca will air sports games during the week and host live entertainment on the weekends including jazz performances, mariachis, and salsa nights. Outside, the eatery sports a stone patio with a pristine, rectangular fire pit perched atop a waterfall fountain. Aesthetically, the restaurant features bright greens and rust oranges, hand-painted murals, hand-crafted lily chandeliers at the entrance, and dark cherry wood accents throughout. From carne asada and enchiladas to burritos and fajitas, Padilla said La Barca serves authentic Mexican cuisine in sizable portions for reasonable prices. "La Barca in LA is always busy, it's a family place. We want to create something similar here in Downey," said William Torres, real estate broker for Padilla. "Guillermo is a very humble person. He likes to help the community and has a good relationship with his customers." Established 35 years ago in Los Angeles by Padilla's father, the original La Barca, located just up the street from the University of Southern California, remains a popular destination with locals. Nonetheless, Padilla, a Downey resident since 1994, always hoped to expand his restaurant and bring his family's tradition to Downey. "I like this city, it's a beautiful city. I was looking at this place before and said "if it goes up for sale, I'd like to buy it," said Padilla who will run the restaurant with his family. "After negotiating, we ended up leasing the building with an option to buy." Torres believes the business can help breathe new life into the city's Downtown district while benefiting other local restaurants like Downey Brewing Co. across the street. "This business will help their business by bringing people from different cities," said Torres. "They'll be able to find entertainment in Downey and we'll attract new people from Pico Rivera, Lakewood, and Los Angeles."