My friend Tara took me to Fiesta Cafe a few years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. Fiesta Cafe is a little pink building on First Street with ample parking. They offer over 160 different kinds of tequila and serve Mexican food like tacos, fajitas, chimichangas, and more. 

I had the opportunity to chat with one of Fiesta Cafe's servers Amy Myers. She is a bright, friendly person who has worked at Fiesta Cafe for three decades. Her hard work has been recognized by C-U's People's Choice Awards, and she has won Best Server, not once but twice. I called her one evening after she got home from work, and we chatted about what she recommends on the menu, what the restaurant looked like in 1988, and how customers can get their Fiesta Cafe fix right now.


Smile Politely: Hello! What’s your name and your role at Fiesta Cafe?

Amy Myers: Amy Myers, and I’m just a server. Just a waitress. I’ve been there since 1993.

Fiesta Cafe server Amy Myers takes a selfie with a blue disposable mask. She is wearing a red shirt and dark rimmed glasses. Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.

SP: Can you walk us through what a typical day is like for you at Fiesta Cafe?

Myers: Sure! A normal day is: we get there in the morning, and we make everything fresh throughout the day. The kitchen will prepare guacamole two or three times a day, everyday. Same thing with rice and beans. We make everything fresh in our kitchen, nothing is pre-packaged or frozen. Except for the chicken dinosaurs, we make our sauces and everything in house.

The front of the house is responsible for getting everything sanitized and wiped down: the menus, salt and pepper shakers, Sweet 'N Low packets, all that because of COVID. We fill up our salsa bowls and sour cream bowls daily, two or three times a day as well. Everybody has a role getting everything ready and safe for the customers. We want to make sure everything is sanitized for the customers and that our food is top quality delicious.

SP: What is your favorite part of working at Fiesta Cafe?

Myers: I’ve been there a very long time, like I told you before. My favorite part, honestly? I love my job, and one of the great things about working at Fiesta is the people. I’ve been there for three decades now, so I know grandparents, I know children, I know their children having children — watching people’s families grow. It’s a very personable job for me because I feel like I have a connection with a lot of people and that makes it very special.

SP: What is your favorite thing on the menu?

Myers: The Alex tacos, hands down.

Fiesta Cafe server Amy Myers in a cloth mask holds a platter of Alex tacos. The three tacos are topped with a green salsa, and the tray is black with dividers for the tacos. Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.

SP: Do you order them a certain way or just the way they come normally?

Myers: I get them exactly the way they are, and they are delicious.

SP: What is your favorite drink on the menu?

Myers: I like the fresh style margaritas. We make our drinks fresh, same thing as our food. We don’t use a powder or a big jug mix. We make everything fresh, so we go in the morning, and we squeeze the limes. You can get margaritas the traditional style or the fresh way. I like the fresh way, and my favorite tequila right now is the Blue Nectar tequila. I like the blanco Blue Nectar fresh margarita.

A tall margarita sits on a patterned table at Fiesta Cafe. The drink is yellow with ice and a clear, plastic straw. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

SP: That sounds delicious. Now, I’m thirsty!

Myers: I know, right? I also want to say that I’m not vegetarian, but I really dig our black bean burrito. I tweak it out a little bit. I put rice inside, grilled vegetables, avocado slices, and then I top it with a spicy salsa verde. It’s so hearty, delicious, and you’re gonna have leftovers. It’s a lot of good flavors going on, and I highly recommend that as well.

SP: Fiesta Cafe has specials often. Can you talk more about that?

Myers: Oh, the owner Ron Haddix does the specials. We pretty much have the same daily specials. We do a draft beer special, a margarita special, and then we do a featured tequila or mezcal. We also have daily specials where we have $2 off a certain menu item. We might have a time where the owner will order lots of steak, and so then we will have a steak fajitas special. It just depends on what the owner orders and what he wants to feature.

SP: Can we talk more about the owner? Has he been the owner of Fiesta Cafe since it opened?

Myers: He has. The restaurant opened in 1988, and it was just a really small inside with a counter and three folding tables. All the dishes and everything came from Goodwill. Obviously, the restaurant has improved and moved into bigger and better things. It started small and has definitely grown.

SP: What makes Fiesta Cafe's salsa so good?

Myers: I say you’re gonna love it or hate it. We make everything fresh, nothing from a can or a jar. I think that homemade touch just makes it really good.

Steak fajitas sit in a cast iron pan on a wooden table next to corn tortillas and a side of rice and beans. Photo from Fiesta Cafe's Facebook page.Photo from Fiesta Cafe's Facebook page.

SP: What dishes are best for carryout?

Myers: I would suggest fajitas. The fajitas are going to stay whole and hearty. Your beans and rice will stay hot in their aluminum pan.

SP: You’re doing indoor and outdoor dining and takeout. How’s that going?

Myers: It’s going okay. We offer the carryout and the dining in. It is just up to people and what they feel comfortable with. We haven’t seen a big surge. Since we’ve been open for dining, we haven’t had a wait for a table. We have limited seating; same amount of servers, but limited seating. We do our carryout, too.

Everyday is different at Fiesta, and we want whatever the customers feel is comfortable for them. If people feel comfortable dining inside or outside or getting their food to go, then they have the choice. The coronavirus is very tricky. Everybody has a different opinion, and it really is up to the diner.

SP: How has your restaurant and your job been affected by the coronavirus?

Myers: I’m not speaking for the restaurant, I’m speaking for myself, Amy Myers. I feel like we have the same amount of servers but less tables, so people’s incomes are affected. I also feel like the sanitation and the extra precautions that we have to do, with the tables in the parking lot, it’s a lot of work for less money. 

In the same sense, I’m glad to see people coming out and supporting — whether it’s takeout or dine in. The community definitely is showing up. It is overwhelming to see how well our regular customers are supporting us. I’m happy we have our regulars, and I’m happy to see people who want to try new things, too. The support from C-U has been great.

SP: For people who have never been to Fiesta Cafe, what are three things they must try?

Myers: Hands down, fresh margarita. We are the home of the fresh margarita, so that’s definitely a must have. Hands down, the Alex tacos. You can’t get them anywhere else in town. I’ve never seen them anywhere I’ve ever been to eat, so that’s a unique menu item you have to try.

Lastly, I’d say we have some special salsas in the bottle: one is a hot jalapeno sauce and one is an ancho chile sauce. They’re in our little squeeze bottles, and I say, give those a whirl. They’re pretty tasty, and they’re different from other places. Those two will definitely spice and heat up your food, and we make them in house. Definitely something to try, and there’s no extra cost. They’re a condiment, free upon request.

Three Alex tacos are on a platter held by a server. The tacos are topped with a green sauce. A sliced burrito is balanced on top of each other. The burrito is lightly charred on the outside with steak, guacamole, sour cream, and tomatoes showing from the cut side. Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.Photo provided by Fiesta Cafe.

SP: How can people get Fiesta Cafe right now? Dining on site, carryout, or delivery?

Myers: We tried out delivery, but it didn’t work out, unfortunately. We had someone work for five hours and only had two deliveries. We don’t offer Grubhub or Doordash or UberEats. It’s just because as soon as the product leaves, we have no control over the product. We don’t know how long the driver will take to get it to you — or if they’re gonna eat a taco. We don’t know what people are doing with that stuff, so we just choose not to offer that service.

So right now, we’re doing dining in or takeout. If you want to do takeout, just give us a call, and we’ll put your order together. We have pre-pay over the phone, or you can pay when you get there. We can do pre-orders, so you can call us anytime to put in an order for later. Sometimes people will call in the morning and have their husband pick the order up on the way home from work later that day. You can place an order and tell us when you want it, and we’ll make it happen.

We can also cater for big, large offices. If it’s a big order for an office party or something, we can arrange delivery. If anybody wants to place a huge order, we can definitely cater. No order is too big!

A chimichanga is covered in cheese in a round aluminum carryout container with rice and beans. Photo from Fiesta Cafe's Facebook page.Photo from Fiesta Cafe's Facebook page.

SP: Thank you so much for your time, Amy. Anything else you want to share?

Myers: Well, I got voted as C-U's Best Server on Buzz.

SP: What! That’s awesome. I did not know I was talking to C-U's Best Server. Can you tell me more about it?

Myers: Yes, I got Best Server in 2017 and 2019. The community votes for this, and it’s Buzz Magazine, so it’s C-U People’s Choice Awards.

SP: Wow, congratulations! Thanks again for your time and for sharing about Fiesta Cafe.

Fiesta Cafe
216 S First St
Champaign
11 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.