Mexican food is a recipe for success in Cedar Grove

Owner of Casa Imelda taps into village’s appetite for south-of-the-border fare, considers second restaurant in Grafton

CASA IMELDA OPENED in Cedar Grove on Nov. 1, and owner Felipe Saavedra said he wants to open another location in Grafton next year. Saavedra (center) showed off his authentic cuisine with cooks (from left) Daniel Carrasco and Manuel Arias. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press Staff

Felipe Saavedra wanted to be a restaurant owner ever since he moved to America 25 years ago. Now, he wants to share his heritage with the customers at his new establishment.

Casa Imelda in Cedar Grove is quickly becoming a popular spot for area residents because it’s the only Mexican restaurant between Port Washington and Sheboygan.

The restaurant at 117 S. Main St. opened on Nov. 1, and Saavedra said he wants to open a second location in Grafton next year. 

“We opened a little early because people were knocking on the door and they were asking us, ‘When are you going to open?’” he said. “We really want to grow and expand the business. We want to get in other cities. Grafton is my next vision.”

The building was a Cousins Subs shop and a breakfast diner before Saavedra and his brother-in-law Manuel Arias took over the space. Arias moved from Tennessee to join Saavedra in the business venture because he has been working in the restaurant industry for 12 years as a chef.

“I invited my brother-in-law to help me. I consider him my business partner,” Saavedra said, noting the restaurant is named after their mother-in-law to keep their wives happy.

The restaurant features authentic Mexican cuisine based on the recipes of Saavedra’s mother, who taught him how to cook. 

“We are authentic because we use the meats that they use in Mexico, like cow tongue and intestines,” he said.

Saavedra added his business has a variety of offerings to appeal to patrons’ preferences if they aren’t use to the authentic flavors of south of the border cuisine. He said the most popular dishes are fajitas and burritos. 

When searching for a location, Saavedra said he landed in Cedar Grove because of the nearby population of Hispanic workers living in the Belgium area.

“We wanted to have a restaurant that was away from Milwaukee because there are a lot of Mexican restaurants there. We found there were quite a few places available, and we saw Cedar Grove had nothing and there are quite a few Hispanic workers around here so we thought, ‘Why not?’” he said. “We were surprised most of the customers are white people.”

Saavedra moved from Mexico to America in 1992 when he was 20 because he “wanted a better life.” He worked at Mexican restaurants in California and Chicago before starting a landscaping business in Milwaukee four years ago, The Best View Landscape. 

“When I was working in the restaurants, I really liked the contact with the people as I was trying to understand American culture. I realized they really liked Mexican food and I knew someday I would like to start my own restaurant,” he said, noting he was a welder for his father’s business before coming to the United States. 

Saavedra lives in Milwaukee, but said he plans to move his family of three young children to Cedar Grove because he has grown fond of the area.

“I’m living my dream, and we want to be here for the next 100 years,” he said, laughing. “I hear people talking about this place and it makes me feel like family. The people of Cedar Grove have really made us feel welcome.”

Before opening the business, Saavedra spent time updating the space and painting the walls with the traditional colors of Mexico and other festive decorations.

“We want the people to come in and feel like they’re in a Mexican restaurant in Mexico,” he said. 

He plans to open the patio when weather is nicer and he also said he is going to develop a second dining room for more seating. 

“We want to expand because we have people waiting for the tables,” he said.

Saavedra said he is proud to be a business owner in Cedar Grove and wants to share his Mexican heritage with his customers.

“We wanted to come here to show how hard Mexicans work and show them how good we can cook for them,” he said. “We’ve only been here for about a month, but we already love this village. We feel very grateful to be here.”




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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