89.1 WEMU

Art & Soul - The Culinary Arts: A Popular Mexican Restaurant Is Expanding

Sep 7, 2017

Chelas' new Ann Arbor location on South Fifth Avenue
Credit Lisa Barry

89.1’s Lisa Barry and local writer and food expert Jessica Webster spoke with the owner and manager of Chela’s Restaurant and Taqueria.  Owner Adrian Iraola, as well as manager Enrique Aquino, talked about the recent opening of their second restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor.  Their second location is located in the space of the former Jerusalem Garden on Fifth Avenue.


Iraola and Aquino spoke about how thrilled they are to come to downtown Ann Arbor to serve a demographic which they felt had been underserved--the student population.  There were many delays, but Iraola says it was "a labor of love" and a great relief once they could open the new location.

Chela's owner, Adrian Iraola (left) and its manager, Enrique Aquino (right) at the WEMU studio.
Credit Lisa Barry

They also spoke about Mexican street food, and the difficulties of having to adjust their concept for downtown Ann Arbor.  They say their food is different from other Mexican restaurants in the length of time of the preparation and in the difficulty of making certain Mexican food, in particular the popular tamale. They say the preparations required a lot of labor and love.

Credit Lisa Barry

There is an interesting history behind the naming of their restaurant.  Chela’s is named after Iraola’s mother, Celia, whom he remembers as an amazing cook.  “Chela” is also Mexican slang for beer.

Credit Lisa Barry

Chela’s has catered for the University of Michigan’s athletic teams and their outreach to EMU, to attempt to do the same.

A sign hanging inside Chelas.
Credit Lisa Barry

They may have expanded within Ann Arbor, but they still have more expansion efforts on the horizon.  Dexter will be seeing them soon.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu