El Griton Mexican Grill
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday. Closed Wednesdays.
Location: 415 Atlanta Highway, Gainesville
More info: www.elgritongrill.com or 770-527-9404
On the outside, a small family-owned Mexican restaurant off Atlanta Highway in Gainesville appears to be nothing too out of the ordinary with its tan exterior and simple signage. But when you push the door open, those attributes melt away.
With more than 100 dishes from the Jalisco and Colima regions of Mexico, El Griton is anything but your average Mexican grill. The menu ranges from enchiladas to seafood specialties of a whole red snapper cut in half and grilled and beyond.
What makes me enjoy this restaurant as much as I do in the first place are the handmade tortillas and fresh food you can see being prepped, then the liveliness of the owner walking around greeting you and singing.
That owner is Gustavo Godinez, who delivers authentic taste and dishes of Mexico at El Griton. He has been in the restaurant business for more than 22 years with his wife, Imelda Godinez, at his side. His children also assist in the restaurant: the couple’s three daughters, Jahaira C. Godinez, Crystal Velazquez and Carmen Monteclaro; and son, Gustavo Godinez Jr. The restaurant is almost entirely run by Godinez and his family except for one.
Gustavo Godinez is the restaurant’s salesman, giving El Griton its character.
“They call me the griton, since I’m always screaming, singing and playing the guitar,” said Godinez, who has been a mariachi for 22 years.
His talent comes in handy. The 52-year-old sings and plays the guitar as his customers enjoy their meals. He occasionally lends a customer or two his guitar if they can play, giving him time to really belt out the classical Mexican music known as mariachi.
This gives the restaurant its name, El Griton, which translates as “the screamer.”
While Godinez is the appetizer of the restaurant with his welcoming of customers with open arms, his wife and son are the entrees as the chefs. The pair use small-town recipes with unique flavors and fresh ingredients to create the menu selections.
“Everything is handmade from the pico de gallo to the tortillas,” Godinez said, adding it is proving successful. “If people didn’t like it, I’d be out of business.”
His wife, Imelda Godinez, admitted to being a self-taught chef.
“I have 22 years of cooking and nobody taught me,” she said. “I learned by myself to cook.”
One of her primary tasks is prepping the ingredients for different dishes.
“On some food you prepare the day before and some on the same day,” she said, noting the fresh spices give the food its exceptional taste and flavor.
“I like the perfection in the food and we try to make it perfect and best flavor,” she said. “Me and my son are very explicit in the kitchen.”
They take no shortcuts.
“Everything is made at the moment when the person orders,” she said.
Once the dish is ready, Godinez’s daughter, Jahaira C. Godinez, carries it to the customers. She also delivers them their drinks, which range from freshwaters of melon, pineapple and Horchata to sodas.
Jahaira has been working for her father “my whole life.”
“(Since I was) 6 or 7, I would help him serve food and drinks and I never missed a weekend,” said Jahaira, who’s now 18.
Her sister Crystal joins her on the floor as another server while Carmen washes dishes for her family’s restaurant.
Godinez started his business by selling drinks such as water, Gatorade and snow cones from a table at soccer games. Six months later, Godinez decided to open a brick-and-mortar business at a flea market in Pendergrass and maintained it for 20 years.
Then two years ago, Godinez opened El Griton on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville. Godinez decided to move because the Pendergrass location increased its rent.
The new location appears to be successful, judging by its busy Sunday traffic and repeat customers such as Crispin Guadarrama.
“The reason why I like coming here is because the flavor is the best I’ve found in the city of Gainesville,” he said, noting he loves the spinach and cheese quesadillas.
Gustavo hopes to share his family’s flavorful food with more customers in the future. He said he wants to open another El Griton in Oakwood off exit 16 near Interstate 985. He plans on moving some of the family to the new store and keeping some at the old store to ensure the quality and flavor.
The Gainesville restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday at 415 Atlanta Highway in Gainesville.
For more information, visit www.elgritongrill.com or call 770-527-9404.
High school intern Charles is a Johnson High School student whose mother was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the United States in the 1990s. He can be contacted at email@example.com.