As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, these five family-owned restaurants have recognized the influence of Hispanic Americans on history and culture for years while providing a unique and hospitable experience for their customers. National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated through October 15, but these proud local eateries honor Hispanic heritage year-round.
3347 North Seventh Avenue
Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant established downtown in 1984. With the same staff for almost 30 years, Mi Patio management provides employees with schedule flexibility and free meals at the end of their shift, according to bar manager Michael Larralde.
“That's a nice perk that a lot of restaurants don't do, you might get a 50 percent discount, but in our case, we get a free meal,” Larralde says. “There's just more of an intimate feeling because you know each other’s families and backgrounds.”
During Hispanic Heritage Month, Mi Patio management has rewarded staff with pan dulce, and provided discounted margaritas and combination plates for customers. Currently, small margaritas are $3.19 and large margaritas are $4.99. Larralde says the most popular dish is the Baja chicken burro.
“We always recommend it,” he says. “People just fall in love with that thing and end up ordering it every time.”
4144 East Indian School Road
Tee Pee Mexican Food opened its doors in Phoenix in 1958. During Hispanic Heritage Month, Tee Pee has brought in doughnuts for the kitchen staff, says manager Simon Rodriguez.
Customers return to Tee Pee because it has kept the same style for 60 years.
“Even the booths are the same as the booths from 1960,” Rodriguez says. “We try to keep it a comfortable little place for everybody”
While Tee Pee is a family-owned restaurant, customers who have eaten there for years often ask Rodriguez if the management is the same because they're familiar with Tee Pee’s history and hospitality.
“It's not a corporation or any business that just wants to make money,” Rodriguez says. “We take care of the customers really well, and we try to keep our prices as low as we can.”
Most customers ask for the green chile and the machaca, a shredded roast beef, according to Rodriguez.
519 West Thomas Road
The family-opened Presidio Cocina Mexicana opened in Phoenix in 2016, with co-owner Sergio Nava, Jr. manning the front of the restaurant. Nava says running a family business requires strong communication to provide that extra level of service.
“Customers see us here all the time,” he says. “It's nice when you go to a family restaurant and you get to interact with them.”
The Nava family takes the time to talk to their customers and get to know them, which is something a commercial restaurant without local ownership would not be able to do, Nava says.
“I think we always try to make sure that we give our customers the best experience once they're here,” he says.
Nava says he always recommends the chile verde — pork stewed in homemade sauce, and topped with sour cream and cotija cheese — because it reminds him of his childhood.
1202 East Mohave Street
Manuel and Carolina Valenzuela opened the Original Carolina’s Mexican Food in Phoenix in 1968. There are now five locations: three locations are owned by one sister and two locations are owned by three other sisters, according to Josephine Hernandez, the owner at 1202 East Mohave Street.
Being family-owned for generations allows Hernandez family to put a lot of love into their business.
“There was a time I worked with my grandmother, my father, myself and my sister, and now with my kids,” says Hernandez.
She said that customers at Carolina’s are spoiled as the majority are regulars, so the staff knows what they want and already has it prepared.
“The loyalty is there and we do appreciate it,” Hernandez says.
Carolina’s most popular dish is its chimichangas. However, what brings customers back is their “one special ingredient that they always put in: love,” she says.
2405 East University Drive, Tempe
The Enriquez family bought Susie’s Mexican Café and Lounge in Tempe 31 years ago, according to owner Javier Enriquez.
As a family-owned restaurant, Enriquez says he has noticed a strong community within Susie’s because there is a lot of familiarity between staff and customers who have eaten there for years.
“People have known me since I was a little kid,” Enriquez says. “They watched us grow up. They remember my parents, and now I’m seeing other people with kids.”
Enriquez says Susie’s had a good foundation because his parents worked hard by being there every day and creating relationships with the customers.
“It became one of the things where everybody knows the family,” Enriquez says.
While there are many options to choose from, Enriquez says Susie’s most popular dishes are the green chile con carne and menudo.