Dining With Denise Neil

They tried a year ago to close their family restaurant, but Wichita won’t let them

Large crowd watches Wichitan Nico Hernandez in Olympic semifinal

Fans gathered at Cortez Restaurant in Wichita to watch Nico Hernandez fights Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov on August 12, 2016 in the semifinals of the Olympic light flyweight division. Hernandez lost a unanimous decision. (video by Jaime Green)
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Fans gathered at Cortez Restaurant in Wichita to watch Nico Hernandez fights Uzbekistan's Hasanboy Dusmatov on August 12, 2016 in the semifinals of the Olympic light flyweight division. Hernandez lost a unanimous decision. (video by Jaime Green)

Exactly one year after they closed the doors of their 32-year-old family restaurant, Mary and Enrique Cortez have given up.

Their customers just won’t let them do it.

Their Cortez Mexican Restaurant, which the couple had run at 29th and Broadway since 1985, closed for good (or so the the owners thought) on Feb. 18 of last year. Because of growing competition, business had been slow in that part of town for years, they said, and they wanted to sell their cavernous space and re-open in something smaller, possibly on the west side.

They also wanted to take some time off for the first time since they were a young married couple. Their goals included traveling and painting their house.

But about a month later, longtime customers persuaded the couple that, since they still had the building and were running it as a nightclub on weekends, they might as well sell some of their specialties, like enchiladas, carnitas and burritos, to-go.

So they did.

Then a few said they sure would like to sit down and have a margarita with the to-go items they were picking up. So Enrique and Mary started re-opening the restaurant on Fridays only, for lunch and dinner. Now, Cortez is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday.

Most recently, customers have been saying how much they wish they could enjoy the restaurant’s once-famous Mexican buffet again. So on Sunday – which happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Cortez family trying to close for the first time – the couple is adding a Sunday brunch.

It’ll be served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. each Sunday and will include some of the old favorites from the Mexican buffet, including carnitas, enchiladas and beans, as well as breakfast items like sausage, bacon, biscuits and gravy, pancakes and Mexican-style egg dishes. It will cost $14.99 for adults, $7.50 for ages 2 to 10 and will include tea, coffee, orange juice or soda in the price.

“We decided we’d do a brunch to bring something new to the north end,” Mary said. “Plus, we still have the building there, and it’ll help pay the bills.”

So far, the couple hasn’t found a buyer for their building, which they first put on the market in summer 2016. If they do sell, they still plan to find another smaller space to re-open.

Cortez is at 344 W. 29th St. North. For more information, call 316-832-0640.

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