Jalapenos found success in downtown Wausau. Now owner Jovani Gonzalez is taking that formula to Weston with Patron Mexican Restaurant.
Jovani Gonzalez has spent months giving the former Tailgatez building his signature touch as he preps El Patron — “The Boss” — for a late fall opening.
At age 15 when Jovani Gonzalez was growing up in Mexico City, a family friend took him in, and taught him the restaurant business, how to work hard and to not be afraid to chase his dreams.
Those lessons from professional chef Martina Santana are part of why Gonzalez and his wife, Angie, have had such success with Jalapenos. The restaurant started five and a half years ago in a location where others faltered—the lower level of Third Street Lifestyle Center in downtown Wausau. But Jalapenos thrived, expanding to the main floor (making it one of the few multi-level restaurants in town) with more dining and bar space, new Mexican-sourced décor, and music to create another spot to Wausau’s nightlife.
The business has been successful in part because of the Gonzalezes’ attention to detail. That includes traveling to Mexico to purchase authentic furniture, and considering every aspect of the restaurant carefully.
Jovani Gonzalez is expanding his business horizons again, with a new restaurant, Patron Mexican Restaurant, in Weston, with partner Javier Patino (owner of Quality Insulation). On a walkthrough of Patron, that attention to detail is apparent. Gonzalez has been working tirelessly on the former Tailgatez location at 4403 Schofield Ave., transforming it from a wings-burger joint into a work of beauty that rivals Jalapenos. Wood panels line the walls. Corrugated steel patina’ed with acid and copper paint decorate the booths. Gonzalez has done much of the work himself, including reupholstering the chairs.
That’s just how Gonzalez was raised. He was directionless when Martina took him in, but she told him he could live with her as long as he worked at her restaurant and carried his weight. Under her leadership, he learned the business inside and out—how to be polite to customers, to think about their experience and make sure they’re wowed. Gonzalez says he now imparts that to his own staff. “I believe when people work hard and have a good work ethic, they deserve a good opportunity,” he says.
At Patron, which means “Boss” in Spanish, he expects to wow even healthy eaters. Gonzalez and his wife, Angie, attended the Crossfit Games in Madison recently, and after eating healthy food served as part of the games, they realized a Mexican restaurant has everything to make such meals. For example, Jalapenos’ fajita dish can be carb-friendly by removing the tortilla and rice, leaving a tasty chicken and veggie dish. The Gonzalezes heard from fellow Crossfitters that finding healthy food when eating out can be tough. Patron could fill that role with a healthy menu section, Jovani Gonzalez says.
The new restaurant gained a surprise partnership. There’s a tequila brand called Patron, and Gonzalez contacted them to make a restaurant of the same name wouldn’t be a problem. Not only were they OK with it, they also invited Gonzalez to Mexico to discuss a partnership, with Patron being the house tequila. Patron is slated to open around the end of October.
NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect the name of the restaurant, Patron Mexican Restaurant. There is not “El” in front of “Patron.”