By Kelcey Norris
A creative and fresh dining experience will hold a spot in the heart of downtown Youngstown, giving Youngstown State University students a new take on authentic Mexican cuisine.
Jorge Carreño, Ken Vigorito and Rodney Freel have plans to open a one-of-a-kind restaurant in addition to the ever-changing downtown scene: Gringo’s Tacos.
Diners can experience a variety of tacos, over 30 types of salsa, mole sauce and more when visiting Gringo’s Tacos.
Carreño, owner of Margherita’s Grille in Girard, plans to work alongside Vigorito and Freel to create new opportunities in the city with their cuisine.
Carreño holds the title of the head chef at the upcoming Mexican eatery and said he plans to add a touch of authenticity in each meal.
“The cuisine that I learned from my mother is completely different than Mexican cuisine we know up here in the North,” Carreño said.
After recently celebrating the 12th year anniversary of his restaurant, Carreño said he is looking forward to creating new opportunities.
“I never expected to open my own restaurant when I came to this country,” he said.
Carreño said he will be incorporating his professional chef training and experience growing up in the kitchen into the new restaurant.
“What I want to bring from [Margherita’s] to Gringo’s is the culture of a family,” he said. “Everyone is welcome and we’ll be waiting to serve you.”
Freel said creating the restaurant’s name was a team effort among the three business partners.
“We joked around and threw out a few ideas, and in the end we decided Gringo’s sounded unique and [was] something you could remember,” he said.
According to Freel, downtown Youngstown felt like the best fit for the new location due to its progressive reputation.
“Downtown Youngstown is growing,” Freel said. “There are many successful bars and restaurants in the area. … Being close to the university and traffic makes it a good location for us.”
Although Freel works as a firefighter and is in his first encounter in the restaurant industry, he looks forward to sharing Carreño’s cuisine with prospective customers.
“I started coming here about seven or eight years ago because I enjoyed the food,” Freel said. “We became friends with Jorge and will be using his experience in the operations.”
Vigorito said he will be working alongside as the financial business partner and helping establish the architecture of the restaurant.
“I own KV Electric out in Niles; I’ve been doing that for about 20 years,” he said. “I started my own business, so I have a business-minded attitude. I always want to expand.”
According to Vigorito, flipping an office building into a functional bar and grill will be a challenge.
“The construction will be our forte, and we’ll let Jorge handle all the restaurant business,” Vigorito said.
All three partners are adamant that YSU students will find their next favorite restaurant at Gringo’s when the doors open in December.
“Our prices will be reasonable … and it’s going to be unique,” Vigorito said. “Nobody has that menu downtown right now, so it will be something different.”