GENEVA – It is a weekday afternoon, and Bien Trucha is already packed with customers.
And by early evening, the restaurant at 410 W. State St. in Geneva will have a line out the door and a wait of up to 2 1/2 hours. It's like nobody ever ate Mexican food before, but truth be told, said owner and chef Ricardo Garcia-Rubio, they probably have not had anything like what he serves.
"It is very very different food," Garcia-Rubio said. "We don't serve burritos and chimichangas or enchiladas. It's not 'another Mexican restaurant.' "
After a look at the menu, a diner would just as likely to find entrees with mushrooms and carmelized onions as easily as Chihuahua cheese and refried beans.
Garcia-Rubio attributes the difference to having grown up in Mexico City, where all the different regional cuisines come together.
"Mexico City is kind of like New York," he said. "We have all the influences from all the states. Every state has different types of food and cooking and the people all want to share their food from all over the country. My dishes are exclusive and inspired from all regions of Mexico."
Because of the devotion of its fans, Bien Trucha is expanding into what used to be a hair salon next door. The expansion will increase the seating from 24 to about 50 and next spring, Garcia-Rubio plans to have outdoor seating on a patio.
The expansion will take another five weeks, he said.
Geneva Economic Development Director Ellen Divita said the city is always glad to see a successful business expand.
"It is a unique, eclectic restaurant you're not going to find anywhere else," Divita said. "That is evidenced by people who will wait extreme amounts of time to eat there. The ambiance is great; the food is better."
Divita said when the expansion is complete, the draw of Bien Trucha will also bring people to downtown Geneva and visit the city's West State Street businesses. That is, while they wait for the restaurant to call on their cell phones to say a table is available.
Garcia-Rubio, 56, has been working in restaurants since he was 18. He opened Tia Maria's, 730 E. State St., on Geneva's east side 25 years ago. He sold it to his sister five years ago and returned to Mexico City to open another restaurant.
But the owner of the property wanted control of it. Despite a lease, Garcia-Rubio ended up losing the restaurant and all his investment into it.
"He wanted to build something different and he was very powerful," Garcia-Rubio said.
He came back to the U.S. to start over.
A friend hired him to manage a banquet hall in Aurora, but after a few months, Garcia-Rubio yearned for his own restaurant again.
"I need the response of the customers," he said. "My favorite thing is the smile on people's faces when they like the food."
So he and his wife sought out the smallest restaurant they could find, the now closed Fernando's Fiesta Grille. Re-dubbed Bien Trucha, the name literally means Good Trout – but it is also slang for "on top of the game."
"Food has become my passion," Garcia-Rubio said. "Every day, we work so hard for each dish."