La Playa’s loyal customers keep coming back for more
Chris Bombarger gets the most satisfaction as a restaurateur from the array of customers eating at La Playa Mexican Cafe. One woman, for example, showed up to book the restaurant’s private room for the sixty-eighth high school reunion of Georgetown High’s class of 1944. Chris has also learned how to spot couples on blind dates and is always pleased when dates go well and couples move from the bar to a table for dinner.
“We focus on two things,” Chris says, “great food and great customers.”
The restaurant’s Spanish name translates as “the beach,” hence all the seafood on the menu, he explains. This emphasis sets the restaurant’s cuisine apart from the typical Tex-Mex experience and inspires the focus on fresh ingredients that enhance the clean, coastal flavors of dishes served up by Chef Ivan Sanchez. These include Fish Poblano, a fish filet graced by a creamy white wine sauce, and Shrimp Amarrados, six jumbo Gulf Coast shrimp stuffed with jalapeño pepper and Monterrey Jack cheese and wrapped in sizzling bacon.
Salsas are made fresh each day also. The restaurant’s unique red variety simmers on a stove throughout the daily whirl of activity in the kitchen, resulting in an intense taste for more intrepid customers.
“Salsa is very important to Texans,” Chris says, “We try to make it as flavorful as what your mom made.” It’s this fresh, homemade quality that makes La Playa’s Mexican food so popular.
Handmade corn tortillas, which are a little thicker than flour tortillas, give the restaurant’s tacos a tasty edge, and marisco soup, brimful of scallops, shrimp, fish, crawfish and crabmeat, is made one bowl at a time.
Meats are never frozen and are used straightaway. If you arrive for lunch and hear a ruckus in the kitchen, don’t worry. It’s just meats being tenderized, Chris says.
Before Chris took over the restaurant at the beginning of 2012, he spent seven years catering large events, feeding up to 6,000 people in two hours, meaning it was nigh on impossible to get to know any customers.
That impersonal experience motivated him to become a restaurant owner so that he could engage with his clientele, discover what they like, and create the best possible menu. La Playa’s menu can change, depending on customers’ feedback, as their opinions matter most, he says.
The restaurant caters to families looking for a good-value meal by also providing a kids’ menu and by making sure servings are bountiful enough to keep even hungry teenage sons satisfied. Couples of all ages like to meet at the restaurant’s long bar, and Chris has seen young professionals as well as retirees there on blind dates.
La Playa’s margaritas have a loyal following. So much so that Chris remembers how, when the liquor vendor ran out of the tequila brand usually supplied, a replacement brand was sent that supposedly was a better quality. But regular customers complained the margaritas weren’t as good as before.
Customers know what they like and show their appreciation and loyalty, he says. A regular customer who had been hospitalized for three weeks told his wife the first thing he wanted to do when he got out was enjoy a margarita at La Playa. Some even return from holidays bearing small gifts for Chris. One customer brought back a hot sauce picked up in New Mexico, while another brought back a hat from Las Vegas.
“The fact [that] those customers thought about the restaurant and its food while they were away gives me a really, really nice feeling,” Chris says.
3010 Williams Drive, Suite 102