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Valerie Phillips: Eatery needs a little help from its friends

SHARE Valerie Phillips: Eatery needs a little help from its friends

The Chavez family, which has run Rafael's Mexican restaurant in Sandy for 28 years, is turning to customers and friends to help get the new restaurant open at 9103 S. Village Shop Drive (about 1000 East).

It's an investment, with dividends coming in the form of thick chili verde, spicy chimichangas, enchiladas and crispy tacos.

The announcement on the Web site, www.rafaelsmex.com, reads like an SOS signal:

"As you have probably noticed by now, we've run into several problems opening the new restaurant. The construction is about 90 percent complete. But there is a serious problem ... we simply don't have enough money to complete the restaurant."

This Friday and Saturday, Rafael's will serve its signature menu items at the almost-completed restaurant, from 4:30-9 p.m.

"We will not have a printed menu with prices," said owner Daniel Chavez. "Instead, we invite you to come and enjoy all the food you'd like, and then pay only what you feel it's worth."

This is the third weekend that the restaurant has hosted such a fundraiser.

"It went incredible last weekend," said Chavez. "We ended up doing 600 people a night. We were just overwhelmed by the support. It was all 95 percent old regulars, and people were generous."

Over the years, the restaurant's old location at 900 East and 9400 South had been dying, Chavez said. "We realized the new Quarry Bend development would kill us for sure, so we'd better join them."

The family had a tight budget going into the new development, and construction delays hurt them. Some of the financing they planned on fell through.

"Now's the worst time to try to hunt for money," Chavez said. "We had to be out of our old place by February, and we figured we'd be in the new place by then. It was like a bombshell dropped on me."

But friends, former employees and longtime customers rallied to the rescue. One of them is Paul Reed.

"At a time when my older boys were struggling teenagers, Daniel and Miguel Chavez not only gave them jobs, but they were outstanding role models and gave them a huge lift," Reed said. "The Chavez family has probably long ago lost count of the young men and women that they have helped send to college or on church missions, or just lifted up out of the doldrums. I don't know how we could ever repay their goodness and generosity."

But they're trying. Not only have people come to eat, they're buying gift certificates — a sign of faith that the restaurant will, indeed, reopen.

"It's been a really popular eating spot for people in this area," said Reed. "People want to see it continue."

And if they do, this weekend is their chance to put their money where their mouth is.

"The Next Food Network Star": Brigham Young University grad Kelsey Nixon survived the second week of "The Next Food Network Star." On Sunday's episode, the North Ogden native stumbled on her challenge question: What are the four primal cuts of beef? (What, you don't know either? The answer is loin, chuck, rib and round.)

Part of the episode's challenge was preparing brunch for passengers on a train, and Nixon made a duck salad with apricots and raspberries.

Nixon's performance on this last episode is one of the topics on my new blog at deseretnews.com.

E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com