Jalisco has become a Watsonville staple, serving up homemade Mexican classics
Stella Romo grew up in the restaurant industry. She opened Jalisco Mexican Cuisine in Watsonville on her own in 1982. She was only 22 years old. The popular place is all about authenticity, from the food to the ambiance inside the classic building. Meat and seafood are cooked on a huge mesquite grill, offering a variety of sizzling fajitas. They are also known for the guacamole which is prepared at the table, igniting an unparalleled mind blowing factor. Other favorites on the menu include the roast molcajete ranchero, a traditional pozole, and spinach enchiladas with greens Mole. Hours are Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Romo recently spoke to GT about what it was like to open such a young restaurant and his favorite night of the week to work.
How did you open Jalisco at 22?
STELLA ROMO: What gave me courage was that I started at 13 in my mother’s restaurant, and I came to help after school because I saw how hard she was working and what ‘she needed help. I saw how difficult it was for her, a Hispanic woman who ran her own restaurant in the early 1970s, and if she could do it then I thought I could do it. She gave me a great example. For the first five years here, I didn’t take any vacation and worked 9 am-11pm and later seven days a week. And I was doing all of that while raising a 6 month old baby. I’m thinking about it now and I know I could do it and just had to believe in myself.
How do Friday evenings embody the spirit of Jalisco?
It’s very busy here on Fridays, and I love the way the community comes together and has a great time. We have a live mariachi band every Friday that has been playing here since 1990. A lot of people love them, and in Mexico every time a mariachi plays it means a fiesta or a party. It brings people together and has fun and creates a lively atmosphere. Customers eagerly wait for Fridays to unwind after a long week at work, and people seem to be in a really celebratory mood.
618 Main Street, Watsonville, 831-728-9080; jaliscorestaurant.com.