Sonora Rooftop in the Arts District will become Juan’s Cantina during a change of ownership


Juan Carrillo and Neal Patel toast after finalizing the deal that gave Carrillo a majority stake in Sonora Rooftop & Sports Bar. (Photos courtesy of Juan’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina)

One of the Arts District’s newest restaurants is getting a makeover and makeover as a prolific restaurateur enters the Richmond area.

Juan Carrillo bought a controlling interest in Sonora Rooftop & Sports Bar at 11 W. Broad St. and converted it into Juan’s Cantina and Rooftop, a concept similar to four other restaurants he owns in Hampton Roads.

LX Group opened Sonora in late 2020, adding it to its portfolio of local restaurants including Nama, Switch Pop-Up Bar, Kabana Rooftop and Belle & James.

LX Group co-owners Neal Patel and Kunal Shah opened Monroe Rooftop in Hampton last summer, and it was there that they met Carrillo through a mutual friend.

Patel said they were considering making changes to Sonora, but meeting Carrillo and visiting his restaurants helped them close the deal.

“With COVID and as tough as the job market is, we had decided to look to partner with someone who is more than a chef in the kitchen,” Patel said. “It was important for us to want to bring in someone at the property level.”

Sonora Rooftop & Sports Bar opened in late 2020 in a building that once housed a thrift store that burned down in 2017. (Photo by Mike Platania)

A restaurateur for over 15 years, Carrillo has gradually established his namesake restaurants across Hampton, Newport News and Gloucester. He said he was watching Richmond but had some reservations.

“I wanted to be in the Richmond area, but I was always a little hesitant. I started doing some research and saw the building and thought it was really unique,” ​​Carrillo said of the Sonora space. “Roof level, loved it. I feel like I’m in Chicago or Los Angeles with that kind of vibe. That’s really what attracted me. »

The two parties finalized the deal in early January for an undisclosed amount. Patel and Shah retained a minority stake in the restaurant.

This isn’t the first time LX Group has sought help outside of its organization to manage the food side of the business. In 2020, he brought in Soul Taco to manage the food at Kabana Rooftop.

Juan’s Cantina and Rooftop menu varies by level. The rooftop will primarily offer lighter fare like tacos and burritos, while the downstairs dining room will offer a full menu similar to Carrillo’s other restaurants.

Carrillo said his most popular dishes are those that include birria, a type of tender, shredded beef that’s often served with consommé. Carrillo highlighted his birria quesadilla, as well as his birria ramen soup.

Carrillo said some of his dishes, including guacamole, are often prepared at the table, allowing customers to choose how much of each ingredient they want.

“It’s amazing, especially right now with the cold weather,” Carrillo said of the soup. “Or if you’re hungover, it’s like #1. Put some jalapeno on it? And a cold beer with a shot on the side? Man, you good.

He said they would also prepare things like tacos and guacamole next to the table.

“We do it to make it fun, to make it an experience, and where you want to come and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, divorces, whatever,” Carrillo said with a laugh.

Sonora recently shut down to move to Juan’s, a process that Carrillo and Patel estimate will take about a month.

“We have to adapt it to how our kitchen and our bar work,” Carrillo said. “It is mainly a question of replacing certain equipment. Unfortunately, things are not happening as fast as before.

Carrillo said he was excited to open in this part of Virginia and expand Juan’s menu further.

“I feel like I can get away with some cool, eclectic stuff in Richmond,” he said.


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