Growing up in Mexico, Zenovio Salgado and his four brothers spent much of their time in the kitchen with their mother and grandmother. They helped with taste-testing, preparing ingredients and even with selling some of the culinary creations that came out of their family kitchen.
“They (were) always cooking, and we (were) always walking around sticking our fingers in the food to taste it and watching (them cook),” Salgado said. “Sometimes, we helped a little bit. One day, we would chop vegetables … and one day would make tamales. We would spread the masa (for) the tamales and sell the tamales on the street.”
Since then, the brothers have moved on from selling tamales on the street, but those early days in the kitchen ended up influencing them as adults. Those days inspired them to open San Jose’s Original Mexican Restaurant in 2000 in Orlando. Today, the restaurant has five locations throughout Central Florida, with a sixth location opening in July in Tavares.
The fifth and newest location recently opened in Winter Garden at 16112 Marsh Road. The Winter Garden restaurant has been under a soft opening since earlier this month, and a grand-opening event will be held toward the end of the month.
“We love what we do,” Salgado said. “I started working in restaurants in the ’90s. … The idea to open a restaurant (came to us) because I love the sensation of when people are satisfied with the food. … I love to satisfy the customers.”
The brothers named the restaurant after their father. San Jose’s serves authentic Mexican cuisine, and each meal is made to order from scratch using only fresh ingredients.
“By the time you order, we start working on it,” Salgado said. “I can tell you that 80% of our food, we make in-house, but for a lot of stuff, we have to buy it (elsewhere such as) a lot of our produce. For a lot of products, it’s almost impossible to make it, like we don’t make tortillas (in-house), because we need more space.”
The restaurant offers lunch and happy hour specials each day and a late breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. For those looking to feed large parties, the restaurant offers catering services.
Since the restaurant opened its first location in Orlando, the menu has developed with input from customers. Items such as the California Burrito and Chicago Tacos were inspired by requests made by past customers, and the restaurant still takes on custom requests today. If the ingredients are in the kitchen, they will make it, Salgado said.
“We understand very well what the customers need, and we always adjusted to what the customers needed,” Salgado said. “If you give me a guide, I’ll make it for you if I have the ingredients. This is the way our menu built out because of the likes of the customers.”