The heart and soul of Mexico now resides in Cape Coral. If you're looking for an authentic Mexican dining experience in a warm, intimate atmosphere, in can be found at Monarca's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, in the former Jimbo's location, 1604 SE 46th Lane, Cape Coral.
Owner Guillermo Cuevas and his wife, Gina, come from a region in Mexico called Michoac. There, Gina's mother owned and ran a five-star restaurant, so Gina grew up working there. She and Guillermo have always been passionate about food, especially the authentic Mexican cuisine they grew up with, along with the traditions, colors and all-around feel of Mexico.
When Gina's mother became ill and decided to close her restaurant, Guillermo and Gina realized their dream of sharing authentic family and cultural dishes, and sharing the beauty of their culture with others.
The couple relocated to California where Guillermo studied and learned the U.S. restaurant industry and ways of doing business. On one of their vacations, the Cuevas visited Cape Coral and decided to relocate here. They quickly saw what they believed was a shortage of authentic Mexican cuisine in the area that served the type of regional food they grew up with and loved so much. They decided Cape Coral was the place to make their dream a reality.
Shortly after relocating, Guillermo met business partner Erik Rivas in a local congregation, and the duo bonded immediately. Guillermo has been in the city since the mid-90s and had a strong business background in the construction industry. He and Guillermo had the same dream of offering the best authentic Mexican cuisine around, to share their traditional dishes with the people of Lee County.
The recipes created in Monarca's have been passed down for generations. Everything is prepared fresh on a daily basis. Cuevas believes the experience of seeing authentic Mexican food in California and other areas of the country is an opportunity to enjoy the origins and authenticity while being transported directly to the city of Mexico where he felt was missing here.
The building where Monarca's now stands was transformed into a little piece of Mexico. A lot of attention was spent on the authenticity and detailed work imported from Mexico to portray the country's ethnicity. Cuevas felt the Olde World Mexican culture, the united ways of family, and the enjoyment of food together have drifted.
He was sure to boast the traditions and cultures of Mexico that he grew up with - the colors, weavings, d'cor, hats, traditions.
Every piece of d'cor in the restaurant is from Cuevo's mother land, from the floor and framing to the decor and utensils. All of the hand-carved woodwork is from their personal property, or that which they produced themselves. You'll feel like you were transported south of the border, and, as they were all hand-carved, no seat is the same.
Jaunty Mexican woven baskets hold the condiments and all art and sculptures have been personally chosen from Mexican artists to best showcase the feel of the establishment. From the wood valances and molding on the ceiling to the bright Mexican tiles on the floor, no detail has been overlooked.
Monarca's menu reflects the authenticity of their passion for traditional Mexican food. While they offer traditional American fare for guests who prefer it, the Mexican dishes really shine.
For breakfast, they offer a traditional bacon, eggs and fries or omelets; choose Chilaquiles Michoacanos (corn tortilla smothered in tasty cream sauce, served with beans and cheese) or the Huevos Divorciados (two eggs separated by a column of rice and beans. One egg is topped with green sauce; the other topped with red).
For lunch, try the Philly-Rib Eye sandwich, or take a walk on the wild side and enjoy the Sopas Michoacanos (thick, handmade tortillas topped with lettuce, tomato and a special Mexican sauce, and your choice of chicken or picadillo beef), or the Mulitas Monterrey (grilled rib eye in a medley of Monterrey Jack cheese filling, with grilled jalapenos, onions and mushrooms, within handmade flour tortillas).
An extensive dinner menu consists of a full page of appetizers, nightly specials and seafood entrees. Try the tableside-made guacamole or the Fish Ceviche Martini (fresh fish marinated for 12 hours in lime juice).
Moving to the Especialidades de la Casa (specials of the house), try one of the 15 dishes that will make your mouth water reading the menu. According to Cuevas, the Chile Relleno (one poblano chile filled with picadillo ground beef or cheese and a delicious secret sauce, served with rice and beans) is "overwhelmingly delicious."
The Fajitas are also very popular (tender strips of your choice of beef steak or chicken breast, sauted in their special recipe with onions, bell peppers and tomatoes and served with lettuce, sour cream, rice and beans), as is the Huarache Michoacano (a specialty Michoac dish consisting of a very large oval corn tortilla filled with beans, finely chopped onions, tomatillo sauce, tip steak and sprinkled with Mexican cheese).
Not to be outdone, the seafood entrees are equally tantalizing. Cuevas is a fan of the "fabulous and enormous" Monarca's Shrimp Aztec Cocktail, unlike any shrimp cocktail you have likely eaten. An oversized wine glass is filled with a combination of shrimp and crab meat in a medley of lemon juice, pico de gallo, diced or sliced avocado, chipotle sauce, olive oil; this makes a towering presentation of cocktail deliciousness.
The Molacajete Del Mar is another delicious blend of scallops, shrimp, calamari and crab meat, sauted with onions and tomatoes and served with lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, rice and beans and is served in a heated rock imported from Mexico.
There's even a nice choice of items on the kid's menu, from American fare to Mexican, to a sprinkling of other countries, as well.
A well-thought-out dessert menu offers chocolate cream pie and classic cheese cake, but Cuevas says the fried ice cream is a beautiful presentation - and the yogurt parfait is also a big hit.
The full bar boasts a wide variety of domestic and imported Mexican beers and tequila, in addition to mixed drinks, and the House Margarita is a trade secret developed by Cuevas - it's sure to become a Cape Coral favorite very soon!
Cuevas closes with his passion for his country of birth.
"We are fans of all things Mexican," he said. "We want everyone to come and have a wonderful experience and see what authentic Mexican cuisine is and share the warmth of our culture with fellow Mexicans or those who love (or those who want to learn to love) the food and traditions of Mexico."
Monarca's Authentic Mexican Restaurant is at 1604 SE 46th Lane, Cape Coral. Hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (kitchen closes at 9:30 p.m.) seven days a week, with breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner 3 to 10 p.m. For further information, call 239-540-9533 or visit MonarcasRestaurant.com.