OK Patron owners open Cocina de Carlos in PerrysburgWritten by Evan Brune | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The sound of marimba music floated above the chatter at the opening of Cocina de Carlos on the evening of May 28. Carlos Mendez, owner of the Toledo area’s newest Mexican restaurant, and former owner of OK Patron in Perrysburg, called the move a blessing.
“It’s like a dream,” Mendez said. “Two years ago, we started a little dream with OK Patron. Now, we have our own restaurant. We’re happy, proud. We feel like part of the community now.”
Mendez, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, began his culinary career in the United States more than 12 years ago, running a chain of five restaurants in Indiana. Nearly seven years ago, Mendez and his family moved to Toledo where he began working as the general manager at Mi Hacienda. From 2010-13, he and his family operated out of a former Wendy’s Restaurant they had renamed OK Patron.
“OK Patron is now Cocina de Carlos. It’s the same kitchen, same restaurant, but with a little different concept,” Mendez said. “This time, we’ve started from scratch.”
At the opening, Mendez expressed a concern about the economy and its potential effect on his family business, but said he was confident their business model would succeed.
“The economy the last three years has been really hard on the restaurant industry. We’re hoping to stay in business with a little different concept. This place focuses on the family. The food is made fresh every day,” he said. “The economy is the same for everyone. We’ve seen a lot of changes in customers. We needed to bring something fresh and something different.”
Cesar Garcia, general manager and Carlos’ nephew, said Carlos and the family have succeeded in bringing about that difference.
“The atmosphere and the food quality sets us apart [from other restaurants],” Garcia said. “The owner is in the kitchen. You don’t see that very often.”
Mendez said preparation defines the quality of the food.
“The food is all fresh. We never use processed meats. Every day, we make everything from scratch. We have our own recipe for everything,” Mendez said.
“My menu is very friendly to vegetarians and [people with gluten allergies],” Mendez said.
Mendez also uses the kitchen as an opportunity to create new dishes, taking inspiration from traditional Mexican foods.
“Every time I change our menu, I introduce something new and original from Mexico. Right now, we have cactus in two of our dishes, [as well as] grilled pineapple,” Mendez said.
Mendez said he credits his success to the philosophy that has followed him throughout his culinary career.
“The name of our last restaurant, OK Patron, means ‘OK, Boss,’ [in Spanish]. That’s my philosophy. The customer here is the boss,” Mendez said. “Whatever we can do to be better, we try to do. We’re a humble family and we enjoy our job.”
Meal prices at Cocina de Carlos range from $7-$15. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. In addition to the traditional family restaurant seating, Cocina de Carlos also contains a bar with a wide selection of tequilas.
“All margaritas are made with 100 percent agave tequila. The House and Jr. House margaritas use tequila from my hometown,” Mendez said.
Garcia said he believes his uncle has developed a business that will continue to succeed, despite the economy.
“We have a great future. We have had a great response on the food; a lot of people enjoy it,” Garcia said. “I think we have a great project going here.”
Cocina de Carlos, located at 27072 Carronade Drive in Perrysburg, has a grand opening event planned for the public from 5-10 p.m. June 4.