A former Mexican restaurant turned pub is back to its old self again, but this time, with the building completely revamped, it's not "the small house" anymore, it's a "Mexican party."
Upon walking up to Fiesta Mexicana, one wouldn't believe that the now family restaurant, bursting with vibrant colors and authentic Guadalajaran decor, used to be a dimly lit pub.
As the former La Casa Pequeña, then The Mill, it's now Fiesta Mexicana, one of eight sprouting up around the West.
"We try to give people another flavor," said manager Jose Alfredo Jimenez.
It seems to be working, too.
According to Jimenez, the restaurant is bringing in more than 250 customers a day.
But flavor isn't the only thing that draws a crowd. Jimenez said his staff makes fresh torilla chips and salsa every morning.
And at the bar, he offers a slew of drinks, including several different types of tequila, a multitude of Mexican cerveza and margaritas.
The atmosphere draws interest too; one customer wanted to buy decorations from the restaurant, but Jimenez had to inform him they weren't for sale.
"It has completely changed," said building owner Monica Sohn. "The only thing that remains the same are the four walls that surround it."
Sohn said the building is one of the oldest in Payson, and thanks to Fiesta Mexicana, the building has new walls, a raised roof, new carpeting, restored plumbing and electricity.
"They put a lot of money in that building," she said.
Fiesta Mexicana, now a small chain, began in Woodland Park, Colo.
At its success, its owner wanted to see it spread and made a run for other Colorado and Arizona locations.
So far, sister Arizona locations include Show Low and Page.
In a matter of weeks, the two-state takeover will expand to four when another Fiesta opens in Utah and New Mexico.
As mariachi music and the words "Viva México" made its way through the restaurant, Pine resident Robert Chavez was eating an enchilada and taco.
"I thought it was pretty good," he said afterward. "The rice was excellent, better than anywhere."
Jimenez said out of 80 different plates, steak fajitas and shrimp fajitas are popular items. He also said apretalados, or deep fried, bacon-wrapped shrimp, are well liked.
Jimenez, originally from Tuchitlan, a small town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, moved to the United States in 1980. After having four years of restaurant experience, he decided to take a managing position in Payson.
"I really love it here," he said. "People are very friendly."
Jimenez said nearly all of his staff is native to Mexico.
"We try to teach customers Spanish," he said, jokingly.
Fiesta Mexicana is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. For carry-out service, call (928) 468-0709.