El Cantarito opens on Lincoln Way

T-R PHOTOS BY SUSANNA MEYER — Carlos Flores, left, and Janet Merlos, right, own El Cantarito Bar and Grill at 903 Lincoln Way in Marshalltown and are working hard to make its first week a successful one.

Marshalltown is known for its vibrant and varied array of Mexican food, and Carlos Flores and Janet Merlos are adding another option with their new restaurant, El Cantarito Bar & Grill. The eatery opened its doors for the first time on Dec. 27, and Flores and Merlos are hard at work ensuring that the first week goes off without a hitch.

Opening a restaurant of his own has been a lifelong dream for Flores, and he worked hard to achieve the goal. Flores worked in the industry for six years as a server, learning the various facets of the business and familiarizing himself with all the tools necessary to run a successful restaurant. In addition to learning the ropes, Flores had to work other jobs to be able to save enough money to make his dream possible.

After years of hard work, Flores is the proud owner of a large building perfect for a budding eatery. The restaurant at 903 Lincoln Way, the former home of Plaza Mexico, is decked out with a bar and plenty of tables to sit and enjoy a meal. Flores and Merlos, his wife, were certain that their attention to detail and excellent customer service would set them apart.

“We are very friendly. I know how to treat the guests and I am very passionate,” Flores said. “This has been my dream for a long time, so I want to offer something different with good food and good service.”

Flores said the biggest difference he has noticed between working in a restaurant and being the owner is workload, as there are a lot of additional responsibilities that now fall onto his lap.

T-R PHOTO BY SUSANNA MEYER From left to right, El Cantarito staff members Gabriela Ramos, Carlos Martinez, Dariela Ramos, Jose Flores, Carlos Flores, Janet Merlos, Alex Velazquez, Lennin Flores, Damien Flores, Evan Snoe and Karla Ramirez. Carlos Flores and Janet Merlos rely on this team of people to keep their new restaurant, El Cantarito Bar and Grill, running smoothly.

“I have to make sure that everyone who came here, left happy. I have to teach (my servers) the way I did it (when I was a server),” Flores said.

Flores remembers the high standard he was held to as a server, and he wants to ensure that his staff maintain that same quality of work and service. Above all, he wants to make sure the guests who eat at El Cantarito are happy.

This family owned and operated business is just getting started, but a long-term goal of theirs is to open more locations in other areas. Right now, they’re focused on setting up the Marshalltown location for success. They hope to garner five-star reviews on all aspects of their restaurant from food and service. Because they haven’t been open long, it hasn’t been overly busy, but Flores and Merlos are doing their best to get the word out to the community.

“Some people, they don’t know yet, but we’re working on it.” Flores said. “The people who have been here over the last few days have been very happy, with no complaints and good reviews.”

The couple have been promoting El Cantarito Bar & Grill on the business’s Facebook page, and they have garnered several five-star reviews. Merlos said the tacos were already a hit item on the menu in just the three days they had been open.

El Cantarito is open from Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or



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