Retro is located at 2031 Newton St, Ste C to The Parklands behind KlubHaus 61. The location is meaningful to Ronika and Miguel. They spent their first date walking around The Parklands and talking — for a total of 10 miles. The new restaurant is expected to open in January.
The cool vibe, awesome decor, and wonderful new Mexican dishes about to be offered by Retro in Jasper may only be eclipsed by Miguel Casilla’s connection to creating it.
Miguel is well known in the area through his work as general manager for a couple of local Mexican eateries. Whereas his charm and wit simply season those restaurants, Retro will be 100 percent of Miguel. Drawing upon his rich heritage from Guadalajara in Jalisco, Mexico, as well as his love for art and authenticity — whether in food or relationships — Retro will bring something new as well as renewed to Dubois County when it opens in January.
For his girlfriend, Ronika Maki, the moment can’t come soon enough. “This is Miguel’s vision,” she explained. “He deserves it.”
The career ICU nurse with Memorial Hospital and Health Care and Miguel have been a couple for a couple of years now. She, like many, met Miguel while he performed his duties as a general manager at a local restaurant. Miguel’s charm, wit, and concern for his customers are nearly always apparent, but when Ronika visited, this arsenal of attributes seemed a bit more focused, she admitted.
Through their relationship, she has visited Miguel’s home in Guadalajara, experiencing the rich culture and gaining an appreciation for how much more can be brought to the area.
It is what compelled her and Miguel to begin considering their own venture together more than a year and a half ago. When that decision was made, Miguel’s passion and vision began to blossom, and Ronika saw an opportunity to bring something new and wonderful to the community while providing some great people with a great place to work.
Through connections with artisans in Mexico as well as talented chefs in the United States, Retro will be unlike any restaurant in the region when it opens.
First, the name. Miguel loves retro — think the early 80s, Blues music and neon. Yes, the 80s were 40 years ago; pick yourself up off the floor; it’s retro. Retro encompasses the decor and the atmosphere the couple plan on creating.
Ronika and Miguel discussed what he envisioned and a name for their venture early on. “We were going over different names, and he was saying it has a retro theme,” she explained. “But he wanted a name that was easy to understand from the Latino side and the American side.”
She mentioned that they could simply call it Retro.
“Miguel said that he wanted Americans to understand it too,” Ronika laughed, pointing out that it was the same in both languages. “It was perfect.”
The menu will be diverse and include some of the standard items many diners expect at a Mexican restaurant. And they will be served fresh with as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.
And that starts with the staple of many Mexican meals, the tortilla. The tortillas at Retro will be handmade daily at the restaurant. Through their connections, Miguel and Ronika have a master tortillaria and her husband, that have moved to the area to be part of their endeavor. “We had them come visit Jasper a couple of months ago to see if they liked the area,” Ronika said. “They really like the area and agreed to move here to be a part of Retro.”
According to Miguel, fresh tortillas bring a new element to every meal. “It changes the meal,” he affirmed.
And those handmade fresh tortillas will be part of many of the meals served at Retro — some dishes will be very familiar to anyone who has visited the offerings at local eateries, and others will be unique to Retro.
Miguel and Ronika knew they would need those standard dishes when they were planning the menu. Despite the projected moans from folks unhappy about “another Mexican restaurant,” those dishes are top sellers for a reason. People love them.
“There are dishes here that have been super popular for 20 years or more,” Miguel explained.
But let’s talk about the menu items unique to Retro. The items that make it different than anything else around here.
First, there is birria. Birria is a traditional spicy and savory Mexican stew that is slow-cooked until the meat falls apart in a deep pot of consommé. At Retro, they plan on offering the birria meat on tacos, burritos and quesadillas with the consommé as a dip on the side.
According to Mixi Vanegas (yeah, she joined Miguel and Ronika, too), she has never seen birria on a menu in Southern Indiana.
“Very traditional and very authentic to Jalisco,” Miquel added.
It is hard not to talk more about the birria since I was able to try it during the interview, but here are some more unique items.
Esquites is grilled corn on the cob seasoned with Tajin that is shaved off of the cob and mixed with cotija cheese to be served as an appetizer.
They will have tequila or bourbon flame shrimp and six to seven types of salsas freshly made daily.
“One of my favorites is sweet mango peach habanero,” Miguel said.
Then there is The Titan 26 — a massive 26-inch burrito served on a custom-made plate specifically for Retro. We didn’t hear if there would be a wall of fame for anyone who conquers this 26-inch beast in one sitting.
They will also have a special baked potato meal that Ronika, for lack of a better name, calls a potato bomb. “I got this idea from this restaurant that we go to next to his parent’s house in Guadalajara,” she said.
Imagine a giant baked potato topped with your choice of al pastor, shrimp, chicken or steak as well as grilled vegetables, sauces and cheese. “It is really up to you what you want on it,” Ronika said. “But just imagine this nice fluffy potato fill with these toppings.”
For dessert, Ronika will be providing her personal version of a freshly made key lime pie as well as her special tequila key lime pie. “I have taken years to perfect it,” she said.
Finally, a full bar with many cocktails, craft beers, and even a special locally made beer custom created for Retro by Lighthouse Brewing.
The decorations draw upon Miquel and Ronika’s love for Blues and Rock and Roll as well as a family connection to a cultural icon in Mexico. Ronika describes it as Hard Rock Café but tempered by the couple’s favorite musicians and Mexican culture.
Luchadors will play a big role in that culture. Miguel’s brother married into the family that handmakes all of the luchador masks in Mexico. Lucha Libre is immensely popular wrestling in Mexico The competitors — luchadors — wear these unique handmade masks which hide their identity. If a luchador’s mask is removed during the match, the wrestler is shamed, and the mask can never be worn again.
Through a metal artisan in Jalisco, the walls of Retro will be accented with special backlit metal luchador masks. It is an artistic touch that continues through many elements of the restaurant including the custom-made tray for The Titan 26 and the handpainted dishes that will frame each meal.
The vibe of the restaurant, the fresh, locally sourced ingredients, the cultural icons, and even the hand-painted plates your food will be served on create a dining experience only matched by the hospitality offered by Miguel, Ronika and their friends.
The new restaurant will be located at 2031 Newton St, Ste B Jasper, on the north side of The Parklands (entrance just north of Culver’s Restaurant).