When Sara deMena Travis began working at La Puerta Negra, the Rovetto Brothers International restaurant group's Latin restaurant at 44 Main Street in Montpelier, she was smitten with the location and the staff. "I came here as the general manager," said Travis, "and it was love at first sight."
A longtime resident of central Vermont, Travis has seen the space through many incarnations, such as the popular Black Door Bar & Bistro, which closed in 2013. "The location has a lot of memories for me," she said. So, when she had the chance to buy the restaurant, "It was an opportunity I couldn't let go." Last week, she took ownership of the place and renamed it deMena's after her father's mother.
What's changing? The menu will be smaller, and Travis will rotate through customers' favorite specials, rather than offering them all at once. She'll use more local ingredients and add a few higher-end dishes. "We're going to be experimenting with Latin food from different regions ... We'll have a farmers market special on Saturday evening," Travis said.
She's upgraded the space to look "more like a Mexican restaurant than like a cantina," Travis added. She'll be adding "more experimental cocktails," as well as a margarita bar on the back deck — to be joined, if all goes well, by a weekly raw bar.
Some things will stay the same, including the entertainment upstairs, which includes live music, private parties and salsa dancing on Tuesday nights.
As she made the transition, Travis asked customers what they wanted to eat. The result is an opening menu featuring maple-glazed ribs with tomatillo barbecue sauce, a chorizo burger, coconut gazpacho and caramelized avocado salad. Sounds bueno!