Owners of Fan’s Blue Habanero opening new spot a half-mile away

la playa broad street Cropped scaled

The space came available over the winter after Lalo’s Cocina closed. (Mike Platania photos)

The owners of a Fan Mexican restaurant are going for seconds in the neighborhood.

Cousins Rafael Ayala and Jesus Zaragoza, who two years ago opened Blue Habanero at 421 Strawberry St., have a new concept cooked up a half-mile away. 

They plan to open La Playa Mexican Food and Mariscos at 2617 W. Broad St. later this year. The space sits across the street from the Children’s Museum and was previously home to Lalo’s Cocina, which closed late last year after nearly a decade in the building. 

After bringing Blue Habanero here from Cleveland in 2022, Zaragoza said the pair had always planned to have multiple restaurants in Virginia. They initially were looking to get into Charlottesville. 

“It was a bit too far for us,” Zaragoza said. “Then we got informed that Lalo’s was closing and thought it was a great location.”

The cousins recently finalized a lease for the 5,000-square-foot space. Thalhimer’s Reilly Marchant worked the deal. 

blue habanero Cropped

Zaragoza and Ayala opened Blue Habanero in the old Strawberry Street Café space two years ago.

Whereas Blue Habanero is focused on tacos with over a dozen different types on its menu, La Playa will be seafood-centric, Zaragoza said.

“We want to bring some seafood: ceviche, some octopus, aguachiles and crab legs,” he said. “We’ll focus on seafood but we’ll also have other options.”

La Playa also is planned to live up to its name, which translates to “the beach” from Spanish. Zaragoza said the space is being renovated into a tropical, beach-like atmosphere and they plan to have some beach-appropriate drinks on its menu, such as a tequila sorbet.  

“We want to switch it up a little bit and have a beach feeling,” he said, adding that the pair eventually plans to add a patio area facing Broad Street. 

Zaragoza said La Playa will be open for lunch and dinner, and the owners are looking to open in the next two or three months. Blue Habanero will continue operating on Strawberry Street. 

Although Lalo’s bowed out of the Broad Street space, owner Lalo Macias remains in expansion mode. He recently opened a new restaurant near the intersection of Libbie and Patterson avenues. 

Also inbound to the Fan is Brickwood Barbecue, which is taking over F.W. Sullivan’s old home on West Main Street.

POSTED IN Restaurants

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