When Zavala Mexican Bistro opened its doors on Boston Post Road in East Lyme in 2022, it conjured up memories for many of us of the popular Zavala Restaurant on State Street in New London which closed more than a decade ago. Two years prior to closing the New London venue, Owner and Chef Martin Zavala opened Milagro Café in Stonington Borough with his mother-in-law, Janice Loomis. That was 15 years ago, and their Water Street restaurant remains a favorite spot today. Martin was inspired to name the café Milagro, which translates to “miracle”, because his wife Genine was having health problems at the time. He knew they needed a miracle, and Milagro Café became his proudest accomplishment.
With the support of family and staff, Martin was able to leave Milagro Café in the capable hands of his nephew and set off for his next venture. Having lived in Groton for 30 years and spending lots of time on the shoreline, Martin found East Lyme to be the perfect spot for the restaurant to which he’d give his family name once again. Janice is Martin’s partner for both restaurants and an invaluable part of their success.
At Zavala Mexican Bistro, Martin, Janice and their dedicated team work hard to ensure that you, your friends and family enjoy a great experience and a fun atmosphere. They offer only the best homemade authentic cuisine – food that explodes with natural, high quality Mexican flavors. All of their food is homemade with the freshest ingredients – from their tortilla chips, guacamole & salsa, spices & sauces, to their one-of-a-kind desserts. Customer-favorite entrees include their roasted pork with sweet plantains, seared fish tacos and Chile rellenos. They keep their menu fresh and exciting by offering daily specials.
Sami Sundara – customers know her as Sosa or Sami-Sosa – serves as the restaurant’s manager and bartender. She says, “Customers say I am more like a scientist, because I love to create infused tequilas and fresh unique margaritas! East Lyme has been more than welcoming. We couldn’t ask for more love and support than we’ve received. In addition to familiar faces from our other restaurants, we have welcomed many new customers, from East Lyme as well as surrounding communities.”
They strive to make you the best margaritas with fresh limes, lemons and oranges, using secret house recipes. Their weekly margarita specials are infused with a variety of flavors. Sosa says, “We work hard to make sure we hit every taste bud. Customers are blown away when they realize we infuse all of our different peppers, fruits and even flowers into our tequila.” Customer favorites include their Spicy Margarita, Mango Margarita, Camino Real Margarita and their Reposado Sola Patron Margarita. Sosa says, “If you’re looking for a non-tequila drink, we make a great Cosmo-Rita – I invite you to try it!”
Martin was born and raised in Mexico City. His dream was to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to the United States. He arrived here with no money and no education. He was ready for the hard work he knew it would take to realize the American Dream. He landed in New York City, where he was lucky enough to work in kitchens for top chefs. He started as a dishwasher though he quickly had the opportunity to do what he loved – cook! As he made his way around the kitchen, he soon learned how to modernize his amazing Mexican Cuisine and make it come to life. After ten years in New York City, he met his late wife Genine and they moved to the CT shoreline. Soon after, Martin and his mother-in-law worked as a team to open the New London establishment. Martin is also co-owner of Manana Cafe in Groton, CT, where he has spent many hours fine-tuning his authentic cuisine and traditional Margarita recipes.
It was important to Martin that Zavala Mexican Bistro in East Lyme offer the authentic cuisine his customers have grown to love along with the high quality they expect. At the same time, he wanted to accommodate the tastes and desires of local patrons. They started off with a similar menu to Milagro Café. Since it opened last year, the menu has gradually evolved based on feedback from the community. Martin says, “Everyone loves a good burrito, even if it’s more of a Tex-Mex style. I have been able to keep creating the foods I know and love, the food from my roots, with an East Lyme twist!”
Martin and Sosa love supporting local events, especially those that benefit children in the community. They’ve donated gift cards to local youth football teams, as well as a fundraiser to help local beaches. They also work with The Day to donate gift cards to various fundraisers.
They’re excited to participate in their first East Lyme & Niantic Restaurant Week, March 3-12. They will be offering lunch and dinner prices at $20.23:
Lunch: Salsa y chips or Guacamole y chips and 2 meals for $20.23
Dinner: 1 House Margarita, 1 Entrée for $20.23
It’s the perfect time to check out, or revisit, Zavala Mexican Bistro!
Visit their Facebook page to check out what’s going on – like their daily Happy Hour from 3 – 6pm. If you stop in then, you can enjoy $6 Margarita pints with nine different flavors to choose from – examples include Spicy, Mango and Coconut. Their most popular Happy Hour food items are their $6 Nachos, $8 Pork Tex-Mex Quesadillas and $12 Seared Fish Tacos.
They also offer flights of tequila with over 400 bottles of tequila to choose from! Look for other weekly specials which include Margarita Monday and Taco Tuesdays.
Because everything is cooked to order, they are able to accommodate allergies. Even their house-made tortilla chips are made with corn tortillas. The restaurant accommodates 90 patrons inside, where they have a main dining room, bar lounge and party room. When the weather warms up, their outdoor seating will accommodate an additional 28 people.
Zavala can also cater your next event. They like to work with each individual to accommodate your menu preferences as well as your budget.
Visit their website at zavalamexicanbistro.com to check out their menu and daily specials, order online, make a reservation, reserve a party or place an order for catering.
Zavala Mexican Bistro
135 Boston Post Road
Monday – Saturday: 12 noon to 8pm; Closed Sundays
Open for lunch 12noon to 3pm; Dinner 3pm – 8pm (last seating)
About Our Main Street Blogger:
Joanne lives in, and loves, our community. She was looking for an opportunity to help share all that our local businesses do to make East Lyme such a special place to call home, and she is excited to contribute to our blog. Joanne brings to the role her experience from New London Main Street where she contributed content to their website, newsletters and email communications for many years.