When Mauda Ponce considered starting a business early last year, Mauda set her sights on opening a retail store that would sell food from her native Honduras.
Ponce looked at various locations including Market Square and Clinton Highway, but it wasn't until she found a 5,000-square-foot free-standing building off Kingston Pike that she decided to expand her vision.
La Rumba at 4900 Chambliss Ave. is open Mon-Thurs 3pm-12am, Friday 3pm-3am, Sat 3pm-4am, Sun 12pm-10pm.
"When we saw it, we said, 'This place is what we're looking for,' " said Ponce, whose husband, Emidio Ramirez, owns R&P Construction.
The authentic Latino restaurant tucked behind Toddy's Back Door Tavern and once occupied by Southern Graces and Charlie's Courtyard Cafe will serve its fare 11 a.m.-10 p.m. A late-night menu also will be available. Daily entertainment will be provided by Fiesta Ritmo Entertainment LLC.
Ponce, who said she loves to cook, moved to the United States 14 years ago, living in North Carolina until she and her family moved to East Tennessee four years ago.
Latinos and Hispanics represent about 1.6 percent of Knoxville's population of more than 170,000, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.
But Ponce hopes to reach a broader audience, offering Knoxville residents a chance to taste a different type of food.
La Rumba will feature traditional Honduran cuisine like baleada, a flour tortilla filled with fried beans, cheese, avocado and egg. But it also will serve dishes from other Latin American countries like El Salvador and Mexico. To satisfy other tastes, Ponce plans to serve fried chicken with her own special recipe.
"Expect a lot of plantains," said Edwar Avila, president of Fiesta Ritmo Entertainment, who is overseeing the day-to-day operations of La Rumba, which has an indoor capacity of about 280 people. "This will be the only type of restaurant like it in town. The place is very elegant and cozy, and the food is going to match that."
Music and dance will also be a big part of the restaurant.
Friday and Saturday nights will highlight Latin music, with a DJ on Friday and traveling Latin American artists on Saturday.
Gentlemen will have to adhere to a strict dress code that includes collared shirts and no tennis shoes, Avila said.
Along the left side of the restaurant there are VIP rooms with televisions and couches. In the back, there are pool tables.
The restaurant also has two indoor bars, including one beach-inspired. Think pina coladas served in coconuts. An additional outdoor bar will be open on the patio on weekends.