Stella Romo was raised in the restaurant industry. She opened Jalisco Mexican Cuisine in Watsonville on her own in 1982. She was just 22 years old. The popular spot 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 guacamole that’s prepared tableside, igniting an unmatched wow-factor. Other menu favorites include the roasted molcajete ranchero, a traditional pozole, and spinach enchiladas with green molé. Hours are Monday-Thursday from 11am-9pm, Saturday 9am-10pm and Sunday 9am-9pm. Romo recently spoke to GT about what it was like to open a restaurant so young and her favorite night of the week to work.
How did you open Jalisco at the age of 22?
STELLA ROMO: What gave me the courage was that I started at age 13 in my mother’s restaurant, and I would come in to help out after school because I saw how hard she worked and that she needed the help. I saw how hard it was for her, a Hispanic woman running her own restaurant in the early 1970s, and if she could do it, then I thought I could do it. She set a great example for me. For the first five years here, I took no vacation and worked from 9am until 11pm and later seven days a week. And I was doing all this while raising a 6-month-old baby. I look back on it now and know that I could do it and just had to believe in myself.
How do Friday nights embody the spirit at Jalisco?
It gets very lively here on Fridays, and I like how the community comes together and has a really good time. We have a live mariachi band every Friday that’s played here since 1990. A lot of people like them, and in Mexico, whenever a mariachi plays, it means a fiesta or a party. It helps bring people together and have fun and creates a lively atmosphere. Guests look forward to Fridays in order to unwind after a long week at work, and people really seem to be in a festive mood.
618 Main St., Watsonville, 831-728-9080; jaliscorestaurant.com.