Thursday, June 4, 1998
Neither fire nor flood can hold the carnitas at bay--not if you're Marco Maldanado and burritos are your business. The electrical fire that sent Maldanado on sabbatical for almost an entire year now seems to him more like a bad dream. Now, even though the new ice machine has sprung a leak, the bright orange announcement emblazoned across the front window tells the story: Jose''s Fine Mexican Food is back!
Re-opening on May 5th meant an especially festive Cinco de Mayo celebration, one that caught even Maldanado off-guard. "I told Veronica, my girlfriend, she wouldn''t need to come in to help out that day; the first day we''re reopened, we won''t be that busy. Ten minutes after we opened the door, the place was packed. I called her and said ''Help!''" Maldanado laughs. "I never expected the business just to take right off again. But it has!"
Even though delays pushed the renovation back from the original projection of a just a couple of months, Jose''s quickly caught up to its former tempo, with Veronica welcoming customers out front and Marco''s brother, Oswaldo, and wife, Marcela, resuming their roles in the kitchen. Marco stays busy running interference, mixing up agave wine margaritas behind the front counter and overseeing activities behind the hot line.
"I kept everything the same as it was," he explains, "even since the time when I started working here for Jos, who owned it before. I took it over in ''91 and it''s the same menu and even looks the same as it did before the fire. I started out working all over this area, first as a dishwasher, then busboy, prep cook, waiter. I did everything before getting my own place. After the fire, we all had to go out and get different jobs until the place could be re-opened but we did what we had to do. We knew that we could do it all over again."
Which sometimes means doing things a little bit different than everyone else. "There''s no one region from Mexico that our food is from--it''s from all over. The carne asada is good because I marinate the beef, but I use some soy sauce, instead of salt, along with the oregano and cumin and garlic. We marinate the pork for carnitas in beer and lemon juice," he continues, "and my sister-in-law comes in just to do the tamales--beef, pork and chicken, made fresh."
Chicken fajitas and chimichangas are also popular menu standards, along with a regular line-up of tostadas, tacos and enchiladas. Chile comes two ways--verde, made with pork simmered in the green tomatillo sauce, and colorado, chunks of beef in stewed in red chile sauce, a recipe that Maldanado can''t be enticed to part with. "That recipe cost me!" he confides. "I had to pay Jos for that one!" Along with lunches that roll right on into the dinner hour, requests for banquet catering sometimes keep the crew there until the wee hours.
The conclusion seems to be that the long haul over the last many months were worth it, especially since Maldanado and friend decided to use the time well. Keith, their new baby boy, made it just in time for the grand re-opening.