It took Odessa’s Rodrigo Aguilar 72 years to see his dream of opening his own Mexican restaurant come true when he opened the doors to Los Alamos in 2009.
That dream could have quickly faded when the family patriarch unexpectedly died three years later. But thanks to his widow, and son and grandson, who recently took over the restaurant’s operations, the dream continues.
“My father worked in the oilfields for 30 years,” Rodrigo’s son, Fernando Aguilar, said. “He would always talk about it, but he could never convince himself to do it.
“But we kept on encouraging him to go into business for himself because he was always cooking and had some great recipes.”
When Rodrigo Aguilar finally decided to take the plunge, customers flocked to the restaurant, drawn by Rodrigo’s friendly, welcoming personality and tasty fare like Chili Verde, birria tacos, enchiladas, menudo and quesadillas.
“After my father died, I helped my step-mother run the restaurant for a couple months before I returned to work in the oilfields,” Fernando Aguilar said.
The restaurant continued to prosper until 2020 when COVID arrived and the business had to temporarily shut its doors.
“My step-mother called me one day and told me that she was enjoying not having to get up early and working late every day,” Fernando Aguilar said. “She told me she wanted to retire and sell the restaurant.”
Fernando Aguilar was torn. He wanted to keep his father’s restaurant alive, but knew rebounding from COVID would be a major challenge. Although he loved to cook, his job in the oilfield industry paid the bills and put food on his family’s table.
“My wife, who is a nursing student, was a little concerned about the risk,” Fernando Aguilar said. “But my son Patrick was very supportive and encouraging.
“He knew owning a restaurant was my dream too, so he said, “come on dad, let’s do it, I’ll help you.”
On Oct. 1, an admittedly nervous father and son reopened the restaurant and were greeted by throngs of faithful customers hungry for their favorite dishes.
“It wasn’t easy, Fernando Aguilar, 48,” admits. “It took time to get coordinated, see what kind of dishes people wanted and to take a look at what the competition was selling.”
Fortunately, Fernando inherited his father’s flair for cooking, and Patrick Aguilar, 19, already had a couple years of experience working at local fast-food restaurants.
“I kind of knew what to expect,” Patrick Aguilar said. “I knew that if we were going to be successful, we needed to have competitive prices, quality food and service.”
Los Alamos, which is named after a small town in northwestern Mexico, specializes in Mexican style breakfast plates like eggs served with chorizo, a spicy sausage, and “huevos” (eggs) a la Mexicana, which consists of scrambled eggs mixed with jalapenos, onions and tomato. Breakfast is available to order all day.
Lunch favorites include Chili Verde con carne (beef tips with green chiles), and other typical faire like tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, flautas and Chili Rellenos.
But it’s the more unique items like fresh menudo, which is only available on weekends or lengua (cow tongue), which is used in tacos or other menu items that call for beef or chicken, that really draws customers to the restaurant at 1307 N. Grant. For more information visit the restaurant’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Losalamosresturant1 or call (432) 334-7866.
“Lengua is kind of a specialty item,” Fernando Aguilar said. “It’s very expensive for restaurants to buy – $25 – and the tongue aren’t that big, so not many places offer it.”
Fernando’s homemade menudo, a spicy soup that many people claim cures everything from a cold to hangovers, is also a customer favorite. The labor-intensive soup is only offered on weekends.
“When we first started out, we would make one pot (about 30 servings), but we were selling out of it in 20 minutes,” Fernando Aguilar says. “We started making two pots per weekend, but even then, people were placing orders during the week or offering to buy the whole pot; so now we’ve started making a third pot.”
Not that the Aguilar’s are complaining. Due to COVID and being closed for so long, it’s taken time to attract new customers and for longtime customers to return. In addition to in-door dining, the restaurant offers pickup and delivery service.
“I wish business would pick up during the week,” Fernando Aguilar admits. “Sometimes things can be slow around here.
“But Patrick and I are determined to keep the restaurant going and passed down for many more generations.”
Los Alamos is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Aguilar’s earlier this year tried expanding their weekday hours to 9 p.m. Although the later hours were drawing more customers, it was exhausting to work such long hours, both men say.
“We’ve always gotten along,” said Patrick. “But we noticed that we were butting heads a lot more. It’s tough when you work together all day and then go home together.”
If the business continues to grow, they plan to hire more help and expand the restaurant’s hours again, the elder Aguilar said.
For now, father and son will continue grinding it out, determined to keep the family’s legacy alive.
What they don’t do, is cook much when they’re not at work.
“No, there is no cooking at home,” Fernando Aguilar says with a laugh. “Do you know what we did for dinner last night – Chick-fil-A.”