Casa Borrega, a funky, eclectic Mexican restaurant that Hugo Montero and family opened at historic Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard nearly ten years ago, has closed. The last day of the restaurant was Friday, May 6, Montero wrote in a farewell post on Facebook that evening after the service.
“It has been my privilege to meet you, [a] honor to serve you and it is my great pleasure to be a part of the magical New Orleans Trident: art, music and food. Gratitude is a memory of the heart, ”Montero wrote, prompting hundreds of comments of support from customers, many of whom were local regulars or regulars outside the city.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Montero lived in New Orleans for more than twenty years before opening Casa Borrego with then-wife and business partner Linda Stone in 2013. The couple spent nearly five years transforming the 1891 Greek Revival on Oretha Castle Boulevard Haley at Casa Borrega, using only recycled materials – benches from a flooded church in Mid City; pillars from the collapsed Treme double; stained glass and tin ceiling tiles from San Antonio; and wrought-iron chandeliers from Mexico – resulting in one of the most beautiful courtyards in the city. The food, as Montero described it, was a display of what could be found on funds and mercados in Mexico City, with flavors from the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Jalisco and Yucatan. He was especially known for Montero’s recipes for moles.
“We created Casa Borrega not as a restaurant, not as a business, but as a project,” Montero told Eater for the 2019 restaurant profile. At the time of its founding, it was one of the few companies considered a charitable corporation in the city, and thus meant being committed to the “higher standard of purpose” of existence for public benefit with profit, investing in things like art, music and the environment. Casa Borrega seemed to certainly meet its requirements, hosting Latin American live music every night, covering walls in the work of local Mexican-born artists, hosting neighborhood events and educating residents about Mexican holidays like the Cinco de Mayo, and paying for composting and recycling glass . Stone told Eater 2019 that the restaurant serves “a community of people who love Latin culture and constantly celebrate special events with us.”
With Casa Borrego, Montero has spent the last decade working to raise the profile of Mexican culture in the New Orleans gumbo pot, and that seems to have had an impact. Although it was just one of two local businesses (known to Montero) that closed during the 2017 Immigrant-Free Day, a large number of non-Mexican taqueria owners have opened in New Orleans in recent years, something Montero takes as compliment. And after boycotting Top Taco Fest his first year, Montero continued to work closely with the festival’s founder to help program educational seminars and lectures, and served as a “kind of cultural advisor” for the event. Montero told Eater in 2019, “Not just here, and not just in the United States, but internationally, we see Mexican food starting to get this recognition we’ve always wanted to have.”
Montero confirmed Eater’s closure on Monday, saying it had received “incredible support” from customers in response to his announcement, and would share further news soon.