Where can you go to get authentic Mexican food when you are nowhere near the Mexican border? Look no further than 411 W. Highway Street in Dodge Center! I am a very picky customer when it comes to Mexican food, and from the first bite at Plaza Morena, I have been addicted! There are actually 3 other locations in our area, so it is a growing franchise. Owatonna, Faribault and Medelia also have a Plaza Morena, but today we will focus on the Dodge Center location, because congratulations are in order. Mario Leon and his two partners in the franchise, Jaime Gonzalez and Rene Marcos took ownership of this location in April of 2023.
I was able to sit down with Mario and chat with him about his new adventure. I asked him what made him decide to jump from employee to employer. "It all started when I was working in Iowa at a restaurant where my wages were my tips". He had moved from Nashville, Tennessee to Iowa, and wasn't making the kind of income he needed to support his family of 3, so when his sister in law called him from Dodge Center and told him about the opportunity to work at a new Mexican Restaurant that was opening, and he would earn wages and tips, he jumped at the opportunity. That was 4 years ago. "I was already working 24/7 at the restaurant, and when the franchise owner offered us the opportunity to own the restaurant, we decided to go for it."
As I was interviewing him and munching on some chips and queso, I noticed some changes. The tables have all been refinished, and the chairs are all new, and brightly colored. I asked Mario if there were more changes that I couldn't see, and he said the kitchen equipment has all been updated, and the menu has been added on to. He likes to try new things, so each week you will see his newest additions to the menu. They have monthly specials, and are always willing to listen if you have any requests or ideas to try. They have a social media presence at Plaza Morena Dodge Center, and will soon have a local delivery service for those who would rather enjoy their authentic Mexican fare at home. Right now, you can call the restaurant at (507) 374-9555 to order by phone, or order online at dodgeplazamorena.com for eat in, or take out.
When you walk in the door, the daily specials will be posted to get your tastebuds going, and Monday through Friday there is a well stocked lunch buffet. There are new food creations that people come from all over to taste, and they have added pull tabs to play while you wait. For larger groups, you can make reservations ahead of time. They do catering for any size event, and you can also have a party in the back dining area. Taco bars and fajita bars are the most popular for catering events, but all the food is authentic and quite tasty!
The hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 am to 9 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 11 pm.
I asked Mario if he had any personal goals for his new restaurant. "Yes! My goal is to be the best Mexican Restaurant around!" Well, if you ask me, he has already achieved that distinction, so I can't wait to see how he can do an even better job of providing top fare for the lucky locals in Dodge Center and beyond! "And I also like to experiment with fun drinks, like our signature Watermelon Margarita," he chuckled.
The new owners at Plaza Morena love their new community, and are visible at many local events. They host lunches for businesses, are present in the parades in town, they support the Booster Club, do raffles, donate gift certificates for fundraising events, and are now members of the Chamber of Commerce. Lucky for us all, I'd guess they are here to stay!!