NEW CASTLE — There is a saying in Oaxaca, Mexico: “Para todo mal, mezcal; para todo bien, tambien.” (For everything wrong, mezcal; for everything right, too.)
If you’re unfamiliar with mezcal, it is a distilled, alcoholic beverage made in Oaxaca. It is a completely different liquor from tequila, which is made strictly from the blue agave plant, while mezcal may be made from any variety of agave.
But it is the food from Oaxaca that will be featured when Hacienda El Patron opens it doors on Saturday afternoon at 201 W. Main Street in downtown New Castle.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Sam and Letitia Garcia, who purchased the building in 2012.
The Garcias met and married in Los Angeles. Letitia is originally from Oaxaca in the southwestern part of Mexico, while Sam is from Chihuahua in the north.
Sam had come out to Colorado on a visit and fell in love with the Roaring Fork Valley.
“When I saw this place, I think it’s a great place to raise our daughters,” he said with a smile.
So they packed everything and moved to Colorado in 1998 and opened Garcia’s Cafe in Carbondale. They sold the cafe in 2012 with the vision of opening Hacienda El Patron in New Castle. The building was completely gutted, and Sam did almost all of the remodeling work himself.
Those who remember the building as an old general store and a cafe won’t recognize the inside of it at all. The floors feature terra cotta-colored tiles, with 15 booths that line the walls, a large standing water fountain in the center of the room, colorful Mexican pottery on display, and brightly painted chairs that surround free-standing tables. Wrought iron sconces illuminate the booths and Mexican art adorns the walls. The inside dining room seats about 80 people.
A small, cozy bar area sits at the back of the restaurant, but is separated from the main dining area by a wall, creating a separate space. If it’s outdoor dining you want, a side door steps out onto a patio area surrounded by a fieldstone wall that Sam built himself. The patio will have tables with umbrellas and seating to accommodate 50.
Letitia does all the cooking, and she proudly points out that her food is authentic, Oaxacan fare, not the typical Mexican food one finds in this area.
“Everything is made from scratch, and it’s very authentic Oaxacan food,” she said.
The menu features dishes that include shrimp, fish, octopus, calamari, scallops, clams and oysters, along with beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, rice, beans and cheese.
Dishes include things like Camarones a la Diabla with shrimp, garlic, black pepper, onion, tomatoes, hot chile sauce, rice and beans, and carne asada, a grilled steak with avocado, green onions, rice and beans. Appetizers, homemade soups and salads and daily specials are also available.
Desserts include a typical Oaxacan Postre el Patron, and a traditional flan Napolitano and sopapillas.
Nonalcoholic sodas are available, along with a full bar with mezcal cocktails, brandy, cognac, whisky, blended drinks, Mexican and American beers and red and white wine.
While the restaurant opens on May 3, it will be in full swing for Cinco de Mayo on May 5, and the Garcias are eager to welcome their guests.
“I’m excited and I’m nervous at the same time,” Letitia said with a shy smile. “This is something new for me. But we’ve been working on it for over two years. I hope they like it.”
Hacienda El Patron is open six days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday through Monday and until 11 p.m. on the weekends. Catering is also available by calling (970) 984-0351 or emailing to email@example.com.