Excuse me, but is that KSHB Channel 41 news anchor Elizabeth Alex escorting that party of five to a table in Lenexa’s Los Chavez (13424 Santa Fe Trail)? Yes, it is the Emmy-nominated news personality, but no, she hasn’t taken a part-time job to supplement her Channel 41 salary. Alex and her husband, Brian Moran, along with Alex’s sister, M.J. Alex (a veteran manager of several local nightclubs and, most recently, Starbucks), purchased Los Chavez in December from the restaurant’s second set of owners, Becky Rose and Ron Linville. Rose and Linville had bought the business — the site of the first Panzon’s Restaurant and a short-lived place called The Whole Enchilada — from Bobby Chavez two years ago.
The loquacious Chavez, who ran the original Los Chavez with his son, Bobby Jr., sold out in order to open what he hoped would be a less labor-intensive chain of low-priced taquerias. But the first one, Los Chavez Taqueria (located in the former Chicken Delite space in Westport), never really caught on and went vientre para arriba after sixteen months.
The Alex sisters and Moran completely redecorated the Mexican restaurant, painting the walls a vivid sunflower gold and hanging Southwestern-style posters. All went well until January 20, when M.J. slipped on a patch of ice on the Plaza and broke her foot, forcing major surgery. Fortuitously, as she was recovering, Bobby Chavez Jr. stopped by the restaurant and asked if he could help out. “I hired him immediately,” M.J. says.
Bobby Jr. not only lured back many of the old regular customers but also returned to the kitchen with all of the original Los Chavez recipes — “Which he keeps in his wallet, as if they were state secrets,” M.J. says, laughing — including the restaurant’s luscious Pork Colorado.
“The owners who had it before M.J. and Elizabeth had added some of their own ideas to the menu,” he says, “and I threw them all out and went back to basics.”
M.J. lowered the prices, too. Elizabeth, who helps out only when the restaurant is swamped, is providing her own brand of support: The Kansas City Press Club will now host its Burger Nights at the restaurant. And Gary Lezak has come in for a martini.
“I had no idea how hard the restaurant business is,” Elizabeth says. “One day, I thought I’d rather be in a bunker in Iraq than have to tell this party of six that it was a forty-minute wait for a table.”