Popular Edwards cantina celebrates 35 years Saturday with food specials, music and more

Edwards restaurant will celebrate with a mariachi band, pinata breaking and specials on Saturday

The Fiesta's staff from past years celebrating Cinco de Mayo.
Fiesta’s Cafe and Cantina/Courtesy photo

Fiesta’s Café and Cantina in Edwards is hosting a fiesta in honor of the restaurant’s 35th anniversary. Stop by the iconic Edwards gathering spot on Saturday for live music by Mariachi America de Jesus Diaz from 5 to 8 p.m. or stop any time during the day for food and drink specials, giveaways and pinata breaking for the kids.

The celebration is being put on by Sue Marquez and her staff. Fiesta’s was started by Marquez’s sisters in 1989.  

“We started out with a lot of used equipment and very little money. When we first opened Fiesta’s, it was a dirt parking lot … the only other place around us was The Gashouse,” Marquez said. Riverwalk did not exist at that time and neither did all the schools. “Where the Shell station is now, that was a horse pasture,” Marquez said.

The official opening date was December 27, 1989. But Marquez said Fiesta’s always celebrates its anniversaries in the summer when it’s nicer out.

“Not only was it a gamble opening a restaurant in 1989 in Edwards, but we opened up during New Year’s week. But at that time, it didn’t matter. We didn’t have the New Year’s rush,” Marquez said.

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Sue and Deb Marquez celebrating Fiesta’s 10th anniversary 25 years ago.
Fiesta’s Cafe and Cantina/Courtesy photo

Even in the early days, Marquez said they had a loyal following.

“In the early days it was kind of like it is now, you come into the restaurant and everybody knows each other and it was a community gathering spot,” Marquez said. But, yes, it was a struggle to try to get people down to Edwards back then.”

But the authentic cuisine gained attention and the Marquez sisters persevered to make Fiesta’s thrive. Growing up in Denver, Marquez’s mother worked nights and the daughters would have to make dinner from many of her recipes.

“We just kind of learned how to cook from having to cook for our big family,” Marquez said.

Susan Marquez followed her older sister, Debbie, to Vail. Sisters Anna and Debbie opened what was first called Fiesta’s Mexican Deli with Susan and another sister, Cheryl, joining their siblings later. Their uncle had some used restaurant equipment and other family members helped by loaning money and labor to finish out the space. When Fiesta’s started, it was only the main dining room that was there.

“On one side, where the bar is now, that was a plumbing supply store. We expanded into that space in 1992. Then our back room on the other end was a liquor store called Whitewater Liquors and we took over that space in 1998,” Marquez said.

Throughout the expansions, what’s remained the same is the food that is made from family recipes passed down from generations of the Marquez family.    

“New Mexico is where my grandparents were from. New Mexico is known as the chili capital of the world. And we get good green chili out of there as well as southern Mexico, that’s the red chili we use,” Marquez said.

When asked what her favorite item is on the menu, Marquez had this to say.

“Well, besides the margaritas — we make our margaritas with fresh lime juice and agave nectar — I would say I like the enchiladas. The Santa Fe enchiladas are how we had them when we were kids. It’s a layered enchilada with ground beef and onion and the red enchilada sauce, of course, melted cheese and then you top it off with an over-medium egg,” Marquez said.

In addition to the margaritas, Micheladas are also popular at Fiesta’s.
Fiesta’s Cafe and Cantina/Courtesy photo

The décor at Fiestas has always had a warm, welcoming feel.

“It’s kind of like going into your grandma’s house, we’ve always wanted our restaurant to be inviting. Our murals were done by Natalie De Stefano, we have a lot of western art on the walls and then the pinatas, kids love all the pinatas hanging from the ceiling,” Marquez said.

Marquez has seen a lot of those kids grow up and now bring their families in. She also said that her staff is like a family.

Sue Marquez, right, and her son, Aaron Ledezma, who also works at Fiesta’s.
Fiesta’s Cafe and Cantina/Courtesy photo

“We’ve created a lot of jobs and employees have come and gone and moved on to wonderful things and different pathways. It’s fun to see and many times someone will come back and stop in for a visit and talk about the time when they worked here,” Marquez said.

Although the restaurant business isn’t easy, Marquez does find it rewarding.

“The interaction with customers and employees and the friendships we built and being a part of the community and its growth has been amazing,” Marquez said. “We’re lucky to live where we are.”

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