Two decades of dishing up some of Baton Rouge’s finest traditional Mexican cuisine has Mestizo’s owner, Jim Urdiales, excited for the future yet reflective.
Urdiales is a third-generation restaurant entrepreneur, opening his first eatery on March 1, 1999 after returning from work in New Orleans. With a small loan and a hopeful mindset, Urdiales opened his humble business on Sherwood Forrest.
Urdiales took the lead as the owner and the only cook while his brother and four staff members busied themselves with the facility’s modest 15-table seating arrangement. However, Urdiales upped their game; in 2004, Mestizo moved to an old Denny’s to accompany a more solid customer base.
“We went from a donut shop to a Denny’s. Our next reincarnation needs to be a Waffle House.” Urdiales said jokingly.
Urdiales’ ambitions ran even higher as he began working on a sister location, La Mestiza, in Prairieville, but it was forced to close in 2011 due to the recession and Louisiana’s unpredictable weather conditions. Afterward, Urdiales refocused his priorities and headed back to Mestizo– the rest is history.
Although Urdiales feels blessed to be successful, the last two decades have proven to be challenging in a multitude of ways, including Mestizo’s parting from Americanized Tex-Mex altogether. Urdiales wants to steer his business to a uniquely authentic Mexican cuisine dining experience for his customers.
In a country that adores its Tex-Mex, Urdiales dives head first against the current to introduce Baton Rouge to something truly special.
“In this business, there is always a moving target,” Urdiales said. “I wake up and say ‘It’s time to slay the dragon.’ Sometimes, we don’t know what it looks like, but we know we are going to have to fight it.”
With his new ideas for a revolution in the healthy restaurant eating industry, Urdiales sees a bright future in multiple aspects.
Despite the daily challenges Mestizo faces, Urdiales and his team know that what they are doing has made them a top leader in healthy, clean dining. However, it did take a little outside motivation to prompt Urdiales to mold his business into what it is today.
By the will of an unsatisfied vegetarian’s negative Google review, Urdiales recognized he was missing the key to eventual success: veggie bowls.
Yes, bowls present customers with the ultimate customizable, healthy choices that they never knew they needed or wanted. This nutritious menu item tapped into something new. Vegetarian, keto and gluten-free bowls put Mestizo on the healthy restaurant map.
“[Bowls] are about empowering the customer,” Urdiales explained. “I don’t think they get that in many other restaurants.”
With his new ideas for a revolution in the healthy restaurant eating industry, Urdiales sees a bright future in multiple aspects. For instance, Urdiales would like to begin catering alternative cuisine to traditional gatherings, like weddings, to adhere to everyone’s tastes and preferences.
Also, Mestizo recently added a new manager, is training new staff, and completed an expansion to the facility featuring many attributes.
The venue includes a versatile eating area that can be altered to seat from 50 to 75 guests, making the restaurant feel modern and larger. Most importantly, the new space changed the tone to a much more serious one–a trait Baton Rouge’s restaurants need to survive in the competitive market.
“Mestizo is the one to watch.” Urdiales said.
Despite Mestizo becoming a modern leader in Baton Rouge’s healthy eating industry, Urdiales would still like to capture a relaxed feeling for his restaurant rather than a fast-paced, order-to-go one.
Urdiales appreciates seeing his happy clients enjoy their meals in a comfortable setting, because he interacts with them on a personal level.
“I am thankful for my customers who have been on this journey with me. Some come in multiple times a week, and that is the ultimate compliment: they trust the ingredients; they trust what we are doing; and they trust that they can do what they want with a dish.”
Urdiales believes his audience values Mestizo for being the sole provider for the things they love to eat and a locally owned business; however, Mestizo’s clients are not the only ones Urdiales relied on throughout his years as a restaurant owner.
“I am so thankful for my mom and dad to have been able to witness this journey,” Urdiales said. “I also have a work family. Because we work so hard, we have become close. Those relationships are just as important as the ones I have with customers.”
With his family and friends behind him, Urdiales looks onward to the future with a mind for creative, forward thinking for Mestizo.
To commemorate Mestizo’s 20 years of success, Urdiales Is planning a celebration on Thursday, March 14th.
Photo by Frank McMains from InRegister
Open for Lunch & Dinner
Sun - Tues 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Wed - Thurs 11:00 am - 9:30 pm
Fri & Sat 11:00 am - 10:30 pm
2323 Acadian Thruway
Baton Rouge, LA 70806