Mexican restaurant The Whole Enchilada coming to Winter Garden

The Whole Enchilada is bringing its first Central Florida location to downtown Winter Garden.

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  • | 11:52 a.m. May 4, 2017
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WINTER GARDEN  If you have a hankering for habañeros, get ready: Fort Lauderdale’s self-proclaimed “feistiest fresh Mexican grill” is coming to Winter Garden this year.

After Encore Furniture closed its doors in early 2016, rumors of a Mexican restaurant coming in its place filtered around town. Now those rumors are a reality, and The Whole Enchilada — a family-owned fresh Mexican grill — has cleared ground to build its first Central Florida location.

The Whole Enchilada — the brainchild of two brothers from Winter Garden, David and Drew Cardaci — opened in 2006 in South Florida’s Oakland Park. David had been in Fort Lauderdale for a few years working with a hospitality group before Drew moved to Colorado. 

During that time, David and his wife, Vanessa, opened two more South Florida locations before Drew and his family came back to Orlando. When the opportunity arose to purchase the building on Plant Street, the Cardaci family jumped at the opportunity.

“The Whole Enchilada is family owned and operated, and Drew was out of the burrito scene for a while, but he’s back in now,” Vanessa Cardaci said. “We’ve wanted to have The Whole Enchilada in Orlando or Winter Garden for several years, but (it was difficult) logistically for us, being in South Florida and not having someone to work operations there. We would be in Winter Garden if our roots weren’t so deep here in Ft. Lauderdale.”

With Drew back in Orlando and ready to jump back into the burrito scene, bringing The Whole Enchilada to Winter Garden suddenly became feasible.

The old Encore Furniture building was demolished last month, but the Cardacis are keeping the original façade and restoring its brickwork to keep the historic Plant Street look. The new building will be two stories, with dining on both floors and a small bar rooftop. Each floor will measure 2,500 square feet, and the location will be the first two-story building for the family-owned restaurant.

“When you walk into The Whole Enchilada, it’s a really fun, energetic atmosphere,” Vanessa Cardaci said. “We’re a little bit cheeky, and it’s super friendly. We don’t have a scripted type of service with our employees because we want all our locations to feel like a local taco place. Our line is open, so a lot of the cooks know the customers by name. It’s kind of an interactive experience altogether. 

“They recognize people and know what people get,” she said. “We play fun music, and adding the bar in brings another cool and exciting element.”

It’s a fast-casual concept, but everything is cooked to order and an emphasis is placed on the “Fresh Mex” aspect. Guests will order their food, receive a number and sit down to have their food brought out to them. Each meal is prepared fresh to order. The goal for the family is to serve good quality food at a fair price.

Aside from salads, each dish comes with free chips and choice of salsa at the restaurant’s salsa bar. The rooftop bar will serve beers, wines and cocktails.

“I think we’re perfect for the market in that our prices are fair and we’re family friendly,” Vanessa Cardaci said. “I see so many families in Winter Garden, and sometimes, it’s difficult (to go out to eat) with strollers and children in tow. This way, someone in a party can go up and order while the rest sit down. I feel like other places have more of a dining experience while we’re more casual, so it’s a good addition to have that element on Plant Street.”

Vanessa Cardaci said the family hopes to open the new location by late summer.


Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]


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