La Carreta opens after major revamp

Mexican Grill features new fare, atmosphere

TR Photo by Sara Jordan-Heintz Alfonso Medina, Jr. (center) recently reopened his family business, La Carreta, serving up Tex-Mex classics and some new original dishes. The restaurant, which was established by his parents in 2000, had been closed since January 2014, to undergo extensive interior and exterior remodeling.

When La Carreta Mexican Grill first opened its doors back in 2000, it quickly became a popular eatery with a loyal customer base. While an extensive renovation project that began in January 2014 took longer than intended to complete, general manager Alfonso Medina, Jr. said the eatery’s transformation was all in good time.

“We wanted to make sure we did everything right, and people who have done remodeling know how much time and money it can take,” Medina said. “We haven’t been working on the project all this time — only the last year and half to two years.”

La Carreta, 308 Iowa Ave E., has enjoyed a recent soft reopening, with Medina having only communicated with the public via social media.

“People have been coming in to eat every day. People wanted it [the eatery] back, and I want to thank the customers,” he said.

Medina, who is a native of Roanoke, Va., is a graduate of Marshalltown High School. He earned a degree in hospitality management from Iowa State University, and worked for a local State Farm office before deciding to re-enter the restaurant business. He got his start at La Carreta back when he was 10 years old, washing dishes in the kitchen. He has also helped manage El Portal, a local Mexican eatery his family co-owns.

“My parents, Alfonso and Betty Medina, own about 12 restaurants around Iowa, but they have been hands off (at La Carreta) since I have experience managing restaurants,” he said.

The remodeling has allowed for more seating space, plus brought about the type of south of the border atmosphere Medina had in his mind’s eye.

“We brought in limestone for the walls from Mexico. With the way we serve our meals and the ambiance, we are definitely trying to make people feel like they’re not in Iowa, that they’re somewhere else,” he explained.

Employing a staff of 15-20 people, Medina said he is excited to have chef Ruben Reyes on staff.

“He is from Veracruz and has worked at many restaurants,” Medina said.

The menu is described as “fusion” fare, consisting of Tex-Mex classics such as tacos, burritos, chimichangas and enchiladas, plus some unique creations, including vegan chorizo tacos, salmon in a kiwi/jalapeno sauce, marinated carnaval chicken and Mexican Chimi Sushi, described on the menu as “5 sushi-style assorted chimichangas.” The house specialty drink is a Mexican Mule. Desserts are also available.

“We’re experimenting and playing around. We’re not scared to try new things,” he said.

Currently, only a limited lunch and dinner menu is being offered, with a full menu being unveiled later this week. A grand reopening celebration is planned for Friday through Sunday. On Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. will be a performance by Mariachi Femenil Tecalitlan.

Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant may be reached at 641-752-9427.

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Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at:

(641) 753-6611 or sjordan@timesrepublican.com