When Cesar Torres opened a restaurant in Fondren last fall, he didn’t know what to expect.

Customers, though, had expectations of their own.

“It’s their first experience here and they say, ‘Where’s the chips and salsa… Where are the chimichangas and fajitas?’” he laughed. “It’s been our biggest challenge – to show we aren’t the ‘two for $7’ margarita place.”

With a new menu made for full-service in the works, free chips and salsa are on the way, but authentic, fresh made Mexican food is one thing that will never change at Green Ghost Tacos.

After only one year in business with a County Line Road take-out location, Torres added a Fondren location in 2016 to capitalize on the customer base driving north for his food. Their cravings have renewed his passion.

“Coming to Fondren has been a great experience,” he said. “I had forgotten what full service was. It’s broadened our knowledge of the restaurant business.”

Torres, a mostly lifelong Jacksonian (his family came to Mississippi from Mexico when he was in junior high school in 1994) moved to Chicago after his graduation from Murrah to study e-commerce but wound up in the restaurant business instead.

“I had never owned my own place, but, as a director of operations, I was responsible for close to 50 locations and 800 employees,” he said. “The timing (for Green Ghost) was perfect.”

Everything at Green Ghost Tacos is made from scratch. “Not a can in the place,” Torres said, hydrating his own peppers and boiling Roma tomatoes to create fresh-made salsa.

How authentic is the food? “All of the recipes are my mom’s,” Torres explained. “You guys get everything I ate as a child!”

While adding more dishes to the new menu is the hope, it’s a balancing act. “We tried serving brains and tripe but it’s a little too much for this crowd. We do hope to add more vegetables and more meats.”

Being among 21 locally-owned restaurants, bars, bakeries and coffee shops is good for Torres – and good for the neighborhood.

“No one cares more than someone who is local, who grew up here, who has a reputation to maintain,” he said. “You don’t find that outside Fondren. The food comes from someone who you know, someone you went to school with. That’s what makes it special.”