Valentina “Tina” Torres and her son, Daniel, opened Jalisco’s on July 1, 1999. It has become a local landmark — one of the main go-to places in Brentwood for enjoyable Mexican dining. The restaurant owes its success to the quality of the service, the ambiance, and particularly the food. Much of the credit for maintaining the high standard restaurant is due to the fact that the owner, Tina Torres, has a wonderful head for business together with a truly astonishing work ethic. Tina said that she works 18 hours a day, into bed at 11:00 p.m. and out of bed at 5:00 a.m. That seemed impressive, but we were even more amazed when we learned that she did that seven days a week, no problem. She loves what she does, and she says it actually makes her feel young!
Even though the Brentwood restaurant kept Tina and Dan busy, Tina said an Oakley property became available last year and, as she put it, it seemed as though “an opportunity popped out.” The property was the former site of the Del Passo Mexican restaurant. Long-time area Oakley residents will remember when it was the site of the old Buzz Inn.
The site was in serious need of refurbishment so Tina, Dan, and a host of family members and friends went to work in order to complete the top-tobottom overhaul of the building inside and out. Tina served in the role of interior decorator and designer. The colors and decorations of the restaurant spaces are lovely with a festive air. The outside spaces are trim and nice looking. As a concession to the water shortage, Tina replaced the grass with nice cactus and other drought resistant succulents.
I questioned Dan about how Tina had come by her ability to design spaces to be so comforting. He smiled and said that his mother simply had a creative soul — as expressive and artistic in a room with a paintbrush, hammer, and ruler as she was in a kitchen with a basting brush, knife, and ladle.
Tina and Dan both said that preparing the new restaurant for opening day was a very busy period of time in their lives, but they attacked the challenge with enthusiasm because they appreciated the opportunity to expand their business into Oakley. Once the site was ready and the restaurant opened for business, it turned out that a number of discriminating lovers of Mexican cuisine were as happy to have a Jalisco’s close by as Tina and Dan were glad to bring it to them. Another reason Tina gave for launching the new endeavor was that it offered a way for her to provide a job to a number of worthwhile people during this difficult economic time.
The Oakley Jalisco’s is an extension of the Brentwood restaurant offering the same delicious menu choices, quality service, reasonable prices, and festive ambiance. Each meal begins with a complimentary serving of their homemade, always-fresh chips, with a salsa varying from mild to hot — plus a bean and cheese dip that is our favorite.
Everything about Jalisco’s is fresh. Ingredients are prepared every day for that day’s use. Tina is the head chef and the recipes are her creations. Tina said that she has always loved to cook and adds love as a seasoning, which really does seem to make a difference. The menu couldn’t be more authentically Mexican since the recipes for the soups, rice, beans, salsa, and other dishes, all come from Tina’s childhood.
Valentina spent her childhood in the state of Jalisco, which is near Guadalajara and acquired her earliest cooking lessons from her grandmother, who gave the young girl the responsibility of cooking meals for the extended family, which Tina said often amounted to more than two dozen hungry people.
The Oakley Jalisco’s is actually the fourth profit center for the Torres family. A few years ago they opened a retail grocery adjoining the original restaurant. Last year, March 1, Dan started a small Jalisco’s restaurant in the Shadow Lakes area of Brentwood. Tina, Daniel, and other members of the Torres family work together to ensure that the four establishments in their happy family business continue to thrive.