Acapulco Mexican Grill is a new upscale Mexican cuisine restaurant coming next month to Frandor Shopping Center. The restaurant is a spinoff of the mid-Michigan-based Cancun Mexican Grill franchise. Courtesy image.

Metro Lansing’s Central American cuisine trend continues. Last month marked the opening of Kingston Kitchen in Okemos, featuring a sophisticated take on traditional Jamaican dishes. Then, the north Lansing Cuban food truck La Cocina Cubana announced last week it will open a brick-and-mortar eatery downtown before the end of the year. And now comes word that Frandor Shopping Center is getting back in the full-service dining scene with Acapulco Mexican Grill, which is expected to open within the next month.

“We’ve actually been working on (this concept) for a while, so it’s just a coincidence these are all happening around the same time,” said Acapulco spokeswoman Haley Vera. “But it shows that people in the area love this type of food.”

Vera’s father-in-law, Carmelo Vera, will co-own/operate the new restaurant with his partner, Alfredo Melendez. Acapulco Mexican Grill is a spinoff of the Vera family’s Cancun Mexican Grill franchise, which has seven locations around mid-Michigan, including one in St. Johns. Haley Vera said the menu will look “familiar” to fans of Cancun’s cooking, albeit with a few flourishes. “The major difference will be the atmosphere and the feel when you’re inside,” she said. “We want something a little more rustic but with still a Mexican kick to it. Cancun has more fiesta flair. Acapulco will have more upscale sensibilities.”

The family’s original Cancun Mexican Grill opened in 2004 at 1754 Central Park Drive in Okemos, just east of Meridian Mall. Acapulco Mexican Grill will take over the 5,000-square-foot former home of Just 4 Fun Hobbies & Comics in Frandor, at 300 N. Clippert St., Ste. 17 adjacent to Blaze Pizza. Acapulco will have 185 seats, a 20-person patio, and will be Frandor’s first full-service dining restaurant (i.e., non-fast casual) since the departure of Tripper’s last year. It will also be the shopping plaza’s only bar. Vera said the goal was to bring in a colorful friendly environment with “great Mexican food.”

“We met our goal and exceeded our expectations with Cancun,” Vera said. “We plan to go above and beyond with this restaurant as well.”

Haley said the family chose Frandor as the next location because they felt there was a need for a full-service Mexican restaurant in the area — but competition could get fierce. Punk Taco, another planned full-service Mexican restaurant, has been gestating near the verge of Frandor for over two years, and Taco Bell recently announced a new location in Frandor in the former location of Halo Burger. While it may not be new, longtime cantina El Azteco on Lansing’s west side just invested in an expansion that includes a massive al fresco dining area, which may draw curiosity-seekers come patio season. Bill Bonofiglio, owner of the forthcoming reboot of Mr. Taco on the city’s south side, announced this week he’s begun the hiring process, so the opening can’t be that far off. And then there’s a fine-dining Mexican-themed restaurant planned in the area for early next year, but owners are holding off on any formal announcements just yet. (Check back here soon for details.) So is Vera’s family concerned the market is approaching saturation point?

“There’s plenty of room for Mexican food in Lansing,” Haley said. “When we opened the first one, there weren’t many options locally. Now there are so many, but business has only been getting better. And if (Acapulco) does well, we may open more of those, too.”

Allan I. Ross is a weekly contributor to the Lansing City Pulse. If you know of any new businesses in town, contact him at allan@ lansingcitypulse.com.