Casa Borrega, the funky and eclectic Mexican restaurant that Hugo Montero and his family opened on historic Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard nearly a decade ago, has closed. The restaurant’s last day was Friday, May 6, Montero wrote in a farewell Facebook post that evening after the service.
“It was a privilege to meet you, [a] the honor to serve you and my great pleasure to be part of the Magic Trident of New Orleans: Art, Music and Food. Gratitude is the memory of the heart,” Montero wrote, eliciting hundreds of supportive comments from customers, many of whom were local regulars or regular out-of-town visitors.
Born and raised in Mexico City, Montero lived in New Orleans for more than twenty years before opening Casa Borrega with then-wife and business partner Linda Stone in 2013. The couple spent nearly five years transforming the revival Greek from 1891 on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in Casa Borrega, using only recycled materials – pews from a flooded church in Mid City; columns of a demolished double Treme; stained glass and pewter ceiling tiles from San Antonio; and wrought-iron chandeliers from Mexico, resulting in one of the coolest patios in town. The food, as described by Montero, was a rendering of what one would find in the fondas and mercados of Mexico City, with flavors from the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Jalisco and Yucatan. He was best known for his mole recipes.
“We created Casa Borrega not as a restaurant, not as a business, but as a project,” Montero told Eater for a profile of the restaurant in 2019. When it was founded, it was one of the few businesses considered a for-profit company. in the city, and therefore destined to commit to a “higher purpose” to exist for the public good in addition to profit, investing in things like art, music, and the environment. Casa Borrega seemed to live up to the designation, hosting live Latin American music every night, covering the walls with works by local artists of Mexican descent, hosting neighborhood events and educating residents on vacations. Mexican foods like Cinco de Mayo, and paying for composting and glass recycling. Stone told Eater in 2019 that the restaurant serves “a community of people who love Latin culture and continually celebrate special events with us.”
With Casa Borrega, Montero has spent the last decade working to raise the profile of Mexican culture in New Orleans’ gumbo pot, and it seems to have had an impact. a number of non-Mexican-owned taquerias have opened in New Orleans in recent years, which Montero takes as a compliment. And after boycotting Top Taco Fest its first year, Montero continued to work with the festival’s founder to help schedule educational seminars and classes, and serve as a cultural advisor for the event. In 2019, Montero told Eater, “Not just here, and not just in the United States but internationally, we’re seeing that Mexican food is starting to get that recognition that we’ve always wanted to have.”
Montero confirmed the closure to Eater on Monday, saying staff had received “incredible support” from customers in response to the announcement, and would share more news soon.