A veteran of the Mississippi food scene will make his mark on Fondren by the end of the year early February with a restaurant called Café Olé. Alex Sivira says the Latin-themed tequeria in the former Capitol Medical Supply at 2800 North State Street will feature a limited selection with emphasis on healthy, fresh and affordable.

Café Olé’s menu will include Mexican tacos with flank steak, chicken, pork or seafood; Honduran tamales, wrapped in banana leaves (not the traditional corn husk); and empanadas from Sivira’s Venezuelan homeland. A traditional, hot Cuban sandwich and soups like lentil, black bean and garbanzo are all planned. Café Olé will also serve Paella, a traditional Spanish rice mixed with chicken or seafood. Orders will come with chips — tortilla or pita — and a choice of sauce on the side. Sivira will give diners the option of salsa, guacamole or queso with or without chorizo. Desserts like Tres Leches, flan, churros and homemade cakes finish off the meal. The restaurant will offer a daily special.

Food here will come in generous portions, but not too much. “Most places bring you a basket full of chips and you fill up,” Sivira says. “I want people to enjoy my food and taste the flavors.” An open kitchen will help diners see how Café Olé operates – from a clean kitchen using only the freshest ingredients. That’s an important factor to Sivira. And, he says, he will be catering toward vegetarian diners. “Most any dish we can make this way. Even our soups.”

Dare there be comparisons to any other dining options in Fondren that serve a similar fare, Sivira says his will be different. “Babalu is great, but I’m not competing with Babalu,” he explains. “I learned from my mother to worry about what I do and not what everyone else is doing.” Sivira says he is giving people options. “Café Olé will be at a different price point and our atmosphere will be different, too.”

The 59 year old is stepping away from his “white tablecloth” dining experiences for a more laid back approach. Sivira began his career at T.G.I. Fridays at Highland Village and later Cerami’s when it was on Rice Road. He opened Nando’s on Old Canton Road, one of the first Mexican restaurants in the area. More recently, Sivira’s name was behind Panino’s in Jackson and Hattiesburg and Alexander’s in Madison.

Retiring and selling off his businesses, Sivira says he was left with too many ideas to quit. “Fast food (like Café Olé) gives me more contact with the customer,” he says. He tells us he’ll be a “hands-on’ owner. “I’ll do everything. I want to give something to community.”

Sivira calls the location a perfect one. “Fondren, to me, is the kind of people to be around and it’s a fun place,” he says. Sivira likes seeing the community involved. “People don’t walk around Jackson (as a rule), but they do here.” The Caracas, Venezuela native, who has lived in Mississippi for 40 years, says this area feels familiar to him. “We walked shop to shop, drink coffee, go to a store and then to eat.” Fondren reminds me of home.”

Update: Now OPEN!