A taste of Mexico

Americans have developed a taste for food from Latin America and most especially from our neighbor just south of the Rio Grande. Mexican restaurants are very much in vogue in the U.S. culinary world. Hacienda Vieja, which began serving customers this week in the Crossroads Mall, is part of that trend.

This new business venture is owned by Raul Guitron and Salvador Lepe, who grew up in the same region of Mexico and subsequently became part of separate family restaurant ventures in the United States. The Guitron family owns and operates Mexican restaurants in the Portland, Ore., area. The Lepes launched their businesses in Iowa. They own Casa de Oro restaurants in Creston, Harlan, Jefferson and Perry.

Lepe said that he and Guitron have each been in the restaurant industry as part of their respective family enterprises for about 15 years. He said they not only have had quite similar careers but have been friends since childhood. The two recently decided to join together to establish a restaurant of their own and searched for an ideal venue. Fort Dodge was identified as an attractive option.

“It’s a really nice town,” Lepe said, adding that he and Guitron view the location at Crossroads Mall and the business climate locally as affording excellent opportunities for what they hope will be only the first of several restaurants.

“We want to keep going,” he said, emphasizing that this collaboration has the potential for expansion.

Lepe, who lives in Perry, said he will continue to be part of the management team at his family’s restaurant there in addition to his role as co-owner of Hacienda Vieja. Guitron has moved from Portland to Fort Dodge and will be at the operational helm on a day-to-day basis at Hacienda Vieja.

Lepe said he and his partner have developed a menu they believe will introduce Fort Dodgers to Mexican cuisine that goes well beyond what fast-food chains market. It includes just about any Mexican delicacy one might fancy, including appetizers, fajitas, chile verde, burritos and enchiladas.

“We invite people to come in and try our Mexican food,” Lepe said. “We are going to have homemade tortillas. It’s more authentic Mexican food. … There are going to be specials every day for lunch and dinner and drink specials – a lot of different flavors of margaritas. We have a full bar.”

There are lunch and dinner selections as well as a kids’ menu. American entrees are available for guests who prefer something that isn’t south-of-the-border themed.

Lepe said he and Guitron have been around restaurants since they were quite young and have found the hospitality industry very much to their liking.

“We like to take care of the people,” he said.

Hacienda Vieja, which has seating upstairs as well as on the main level, can accommodate party and meeting functions.

“We are going to have the upstairs, too, for rehearsal parties, big parties, whatever,” Lepe said, noting that that level can accommodate 70 people. “We have a little room for private parties where we can seat 40 people.”

Hacienda Vieja is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Lepe said the restaurant will have an employee team that numbers about 15. He added that several of Guitron’s relatives will be on staff giving the establishment a family atmosphere.