Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs:
Raul Gomez – Fiesta En Jalisco

By BOB ZIMORINO
“Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more.  Armed with his top 10 questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business in their own words.

I actually first met Raul’s wife Laura at the Fiesta En Jalisco across from K Mart on Brooks Street. We both have a daughter the same age that went to Meadow Hill School and they knew each other. I met Raul about a year later at their original N. Reserve Street location at Deano’s. He was always a genial host and I do love their food. They have since moved their N. Reserve operation across the street to Rowdy’s Cabin which was a bar in need of a restaurant. It was a great move and their business has flourished. We met in the dining room of their Brooks Street location.

There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why should a prospective diner choose yours?

RG: For the good value and quality of the food.

What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

RG: I think our fajitas. You know from the look and size of the dish and everything that comes with. The sizzling griddle when you put it on the table. Yeah…

What would you want it to say to the person that orders it?

RG: That it is a good value and so delicious that you want to eat it all.

What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

RG: The Montana Club. I like their Pepper Jack Burger. A big juicy burger with fries or a salad. It is very good.

As a place to do business, why Missoula?

RG: This happened a while ago. We felt Missoula really needs a good Mexican Restaurant. This has worked out really well because we have been here for 10 years and business is still good.

What is your least favorite cooking trend?

RG: Well it sometimes surprises me how much business the big chains do here. I thought when the (he names a certain chain restaurant) came here, I didn’t think they would be successful but I cannot understand how much people like them. Their prices are high, the food is no good and they are busy just because of their name. That is what happens when people don’t go by good taste but by promotions.

It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against Bobby Flay or Mario Battaglia?

RG: I think Mario Battaglia because he is more Hispanic and I believe it would be a better challenge.

BZ: He’s Italian you know. (We both laugh)

RG: Yeah but he is still Latin (We both laugh again)

How do you like working with your wife? I realize that you work the North Reserve store and she works the Brooks store. How does it all work out?

RG: Well, We don’t have many conflicts. She runs this place (the Brooks Fiesta) and I help her make some of the decisions advertising wise and such. When we are home we barely talk about the restaurants. We work here, not at home.

What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”

RG: Be careful! (We both laugh again) It’s a tough business. It is fun sometimes but I can tell you finding the right people and hiring the right people to get the right consistency is hard, hard duty. Some call in sick, some do drugs, it’s this or that and it’s a problem. It is a problem in part because of the salaries that we are allowed to pay. I say “allowed” because we can’t pay outrageous money. We can’t charge outrageous money so we won’t get anyone like the Iron Chef’s cooking. We get the people that are living that life, the restaurant workers. For us you don’t have to be a Mexican to cook this food. We can train them. We start them as dishwashers and they can work up from there. You have to be careful who you hire as a dishwasher because you really want them to move up.

Give me 5 words to describe yourrestaurant.

RG: ( he counts them off and then says) Best Mexican North of Border

BZ: Thanks Raul.

RG: Thank you Bob I appreciate you coming by.

Fiesta En Jalisco
3701 Brooks St.
(406) 728-1323
4880 North Reserve St.
(406) 543-7775

Checkout Missoula Restaurants and our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to watch Bob Zimorino’s Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on Cashew Chicken!

See the “Taste It” archive.  Check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in hislifetime.