Food & Wine

Eat All About It: Mexican restaurant, yogurt stop mean more food options in Columbia Center area

Yogurt Beach opened May 13 in western Kennewick. The surf-themed frozen yogurt spot offers dozens of flavors, toppings and plenty of comfy seating.
Yogurt Beach opened May 13 in western Kennewick. The surf-themed frozen yogurt spot offers dozens of flavors, toppings and plenty of comfy seating. Laurie Williams

The storied “Chapala” brand returns to Kennewick’s retail heart in mid-August.

Chapala Express II will have a soft opening around Aug. 15 at 321 N. Columbia Center Blvd., with a grand opening several weeks later.

The venture is helmed by a Chapala alum, Christian Godinez, in partnership with Victorino Mendoza, owner and operator of El Chapala in downtown Kennewick and Chapala Express in Richland.

Godinez, 20, began working for Mendoza at the age of 14, washing dishes, serving customers and staffing a concession stand at the Toyota Center. As a teen, he considered the work temporary. He learned construction at the Tri-Tech Skills Center and then criminal justice at Columbia Basin College.

The Pasco native dreamed of becoming a police officer, but had a change of heart once he started the program. To his own surprise, he realized he was happiest working with customers in restaurants.

“What I least expected to be doing, I ended up doing,” he said.

Godinez is a 50-50 partner with Mendoza, who took over the Chapala brand after the founders went out of business in early 2006.

Chapala Express II will occupy a former hot wings spot. Hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. A drive-through is also planned.

Godinez said Chapala Express II will be a full-service Mexican restaurant with six booths and three tables. But the emphasis is on “Express.”

His target market is area workers with short lunch breaks.

“There’s a lot of clinics and businesses that need a quick lunch. A lot of people only get 30 minutes for lunch.”

Chapala Express will open with about seven employees, including his father, a veteran cook for the original Casa Chapala on Columbia Drive near Clover Island.

Godiniz said his parents came to the U.S. from Mexico about 24 years ago. They did field work until his father had an opportunity to become a cook. He struck up an enduring friendship with Mendoza. After the restaurant closed, Mendoza bought the bankrupt assets and reopened the restaurant as El Chapala.

The Richland Chapala Express has been in business for 19 years, at 1028 Lee Blvd. in Richland. It temporarily closed July 18 for repairs to the kitchen area but expects to re-open soon.

A 10-minute vacation in Kennewick

Sarah Jordan officially unveiled Yogurt Beach in May, just in time for the hot Tri-City summer.

The surf-themed yogurt shop at 910 S. Columbia Center Boulevard (near Hansen Park) opened May 13 and serves up 24 flavors of frozen yogurt, gelato and dozens of yummy toppings. It can blend toppings into yogurt in a confection it calls a “hurricane” and offers frozen drinks for those seeking something a bit lighter.

The family friendly treat destination offers plenty of comfy seating in Adirondak chairs under a tree too.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell