Thursday, August 19, 2021

[EXCLUSIVE] Mexican Restaurant to Open in Place of Shuttered Rafferty's in Kennesaw

One local restauranteur is forging ahead with his expansion plans despite the ongoing pandemic.  Juan Carlos Velasquez, founder and owner of Zama Mexican Cuisine & Margarita Bar has leased the former Rafferty's in Kennsaw's Barrett Pavilion with plans to open a new Zama location in its place later this fall.  The 6,500 square foot space will be the largest Zama to date and is currently being completely gutted following Rafferty's July closure after more than 25 years in business.  

Juan Carlos spent nearly two decades helping his brother Martin grow his restaurant, La Parrilla into the multi-unit restaurant chain that it is today, before branching out on his own to open the first Zama in Smyrna's West Village in late 2015.  In Smyrna, Velasquez was fortunate enough to inherit a nearly 5,000 square foot restaurant already built-out to serve Mexican food.  Jose's Not Here, originally Lime Taqueria & Tequila Bar and later Village Taqueria, was opened by Rene Diaz of Diaz Foods, a large Hispanic and specialty foods distributor based in Atlanta in 2007.  Following the aforementioned name changes, the restaurant closed for good at the end of 2014.  

Late 2017 saw the opening of a second Zama, this time at the LA Fitness anchored Sprayberry Square shopping center at the corner of East Piedmont and Sandy Plains Roads in Marietta.  This location, roughly 5,200 square feet, was a little larger than the Smyrna location but still featured the same classic Mexican fare and awesome margaritas that the restaurant has become known for.  

We ran into Velasquez while photographing the building's exterior and ended up being welcomed in to survey the progress.  The restaurant is being completely renovated with updates slated to include both an enlarged bar and extended patio as well as improved efficiency of the previously fragmented main dining room.  Despite what some would consider an inferior location to other restaurants nearby such as On the Border and Chuy's, Velasquez is confident his authentic and superior food along with his stellar margaritas will be a hit with the community.  

Velasquez tells us that in addition to his restaurant endeavors, he flips homes on the side which had enabled him to use existing vendor and worker relationships to jumpstart the restaurant renovation.  If all goes well, Velasquez hopes to be open by late November.  

Have you been to one of Zama's existing locations?  Are you excited for the opening of Zama in Kennesaw?  What is your favorite Atlanta area Mexican restaurant?

Please share your thoughts below.

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