El Patio expands

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, April 26, 2017
El Patio, a popular Mexican restaurant and grocery store in West Liberty has decided to drop the groceries. After a recent remodel the eatery has put it’s sole focus into serving food.

“Last year we decided to make a change, the grocery store wasn’t selling very much anymore,” says owner Yaridia Sosa. “You can find Mexican products anywhere now.”

She’s right. While it may have been difficult to find Mexican goods a few years ago, West Liberty more than accommodates that need now thanks to Jeff’s Market, the New York Dollar Store and others.

Accordingly, El Patio has decided to specialize in what it does best, serving Mexican food.

The restaurant just recently reopened after a major remodel that gutted the grocery side of the business in the north half of the building. It was retiled, repainted, restyled… just ‘re’ everything.

Now the sit-down restaurant has doubled in size. Ever since it reopened last week it has had an influx of the curious as well as the return of several long-time customers of the eatery.

“They’ve liked it, they tell me it looks really pretty,” says Yaridia.

The new room is a vibrant mix of yellows and oranges, separated from the other half of the building by a wall with terraces. There are 16 new tables and 60 new seats, each one hand painted with traditional Mexican imagery.

The seats and tables all come from Tennessee. With a shiny glossy finish they don’t need table clothes, that would cover up the imagery of cacti, desserts and sombreros.

The walls themselves are filled with caricatures of even more popular Mexican tradition and folklore, all thanks to local West Liberty artist Carlos Maldonado.

Most notably are more than 10 characters from Mexican television sitcom “El Chavo del Ocho,” which has enormous popularity in Hispanic America as well as in Brazil, Spain and the United States.

It’s characters fill out the separating wall in the middle of the restaurant. The show itself began in the 1970s and has had many iterations throughout its long run.

There’s also a larger than life portrait of Frida Kahlo, a popular Mexican painter that specialized in self portraits that incorporated Mexican popular culture with folk art style to explore identity, gender and identity.

In fact, more painting and portraits are expected to come. There’s plenty of room on the empty walls to add more. It takes a while to do that kind of high quality work.

While El Patio has gone through somewhat of a facelift, Yaridia ensured that the food will remain the same. There may be additions to the menu in the near future, but no changes.

Speaking of Yaridia, the business itself has gone through a somewhat unconventional change in ownership.

The restaurant originally opened around 2000, some 17 years ago, under Cupertino and Dominga Sosa. It was a rough start for the married couple.

“They had trouble keeping it open because they couldn’t get people to work here, so he called me and asked me if I wanted to move…we decided to come to West Liberty,” says Yaridia.

You see, Yaridia is their daughter. She and her husband Armando Vasquez and their three young children were living in New York at the time.

They were asked to make the leap to the small Iowa town and help keep the business running. So, they did it. For 16 of the restaurant’s 17 years Yaridia and Armando have worked at El Patio.

However, her parents are done now. In 2016 they passed the reins to their daughter and her husband, making them do what they saw was best for El Patio.

“They just didn’t want to come in anymore,” explains Yaridia. All of the sudden she and her husband had a new venture in an old restaurant. Time to make some changes.

“It was actually my husband who came up with the idea,” says Yaridia. “He says we should make our customers feel comfortable in a nice place, so this is all for the customers.”

So they gutted the grocery store, redid the inside and opened it up.

However, despite the physical changes not a lot has changed at the heart, probably a good thing for one of West Liberty’s longest sitting restaurants. Obviously it’s lasted this long for a reason.

“We needed the extra room because on the weekends we were really crowded, some weekends we had people waiting,” says Yaridia about the remodel that doubled the sit-down room of the restaurant.
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