Intro to Tex Mex

The newest restaurant on Oakland Avenue, Castro’s Tex Mex, unlocked its doors on Sunday, February 17. Those expecting a ribbon cutting ceremony, however, got a slightly different experience.

Instead, they had a chance to see Castro’s vision up close.

“Right now, what you see is pretty much going to be the layout of everything,” Jackson Castro, the owner of Castro’s Tex Mex, said as he sat in the main dining area at one of the place’s distinct stainless steel tables. Castro spent the afternoon greeting interested customers at the door, offering them free steak tacos, lime margaritas, tours, and sharing his story.

Castro is originally from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Upon moving to Decatur in high school, he noticed there were not enough places to eat authentic Mexican food – and none that served Tex Mex.

There was a gap in Decatur that needed Tex Mex, but the restaurant it would soon become a project not just to fill that space, but carry a legacy of bringing people together.

“This actually started as a project with my father,” Castro said.

Jackson Castro’s father, Abram Castro, passed away unexpectedly before the restaurant planned to open in November.

“While that definitely caused for a hinderance as far as, kind of, where we were going and how long it was taking, we are trying to get this thing going a few months ago and it did make this all the more purpose-driven,” Castro said. “Now we can make sure that anyone who comes in the door leaves with an impression of who he stood for as a person, you know, because of his values and what he instilled on others was second-to-none as far as what he brought to the table. I’m really looking to capture that as far as our mission and our aim.”

The restaurant is now going through a few final waves of renovations, and it has big plans.

“We’re still going to bring in here, in the next few weeks, some T.V.s and other entertainment appliances…As far as the restaurant itself, we’re trying to stray away as far as possible from the from the conventional Mexican theme.”

Passers-by often notice the distinct lighting fixtures as well as the wide-open bar right from the street, as wide windows line the entire front of the restaurant. One can see that Castro’s breaks the norm even from the street.

“In that, you go to most of these Mexican restaurants and you get the same sort of thing as far as the theme, the colors, the atmosphere and the music, but we’re going to lean more towards a kind of modern take on Tex-Mex and dining so, almost in terms of the atmosphere, think B-Dubs meets Mexican,” Castro said.

The restaurant has food to match the vibe – and impressive food – created by Thomas Sparks, who is also Castro’s cousin.

“He moved me here from Texas about four months ago,” Sparks said. “I cooked a lot for three other restaurants. It was a great opportunity so I had to take it. It’s a lot different, but I like it.”

Sparks has also been a chef at two different traditional Mexican restaurants as well as another Tex Mex restaurant. He is building an ambitious menu to match the cutting-edge and inclusive nature of the restaurant itself.

“We are going to feature a few fully-vegan options,” Sparks said. “That’s just a side note because we know a lot of people who embrace that lifestyle choice and we don’t want to alienate anybody. We want every sort, every kind, creed, all of it, every college student to come here and find something they enjoy that works with their daily food habits.”

Castro’s Tex Mex is unique, but not unwelcoming. Even from the outside, it looks like a place all people can enjoy – but especially college students.

“During the daytime, we’re going to try to cater ourselves to the family demographic and try to bring in as much of a friendly restaurant type as possible, but as soon as the campus students and everyone from Millikin starts to fill out the place, we’re going to lean more towards a campus-type atmosphere,” Castro said. “We’re going to turn the lights down and turn the music up.”

Castro’s kitchen is also planning to keep its kitchen open late, meaning hungry weekend partiers will have a place to grab a snack before they head home. Expect Castro’s to be the new hotspot.