With the grand opening of El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant in Gainesville, co-owner Ronnie Dunlap had his mind set on making one person proud — his wife, Kerry.
“She came down with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and died in August 2018,” Dunlap said. “This is what she wanted us to do.”
He co-owns the business with Robert Pulido, who founded the original Cornelia El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant in 2012. Dunlap said his wife worked as the business’s dishwasher and knew everyone at the restaurant.
“This was her love,” he said. “She was here everyday. She’d be proud to see it now.”
When the Gainesville restaurant held its official opening on Tuesday, July 9, regular customers of the other location came out to show their support.
“We love the owner Robert and we like the food,” Mike Fisher said. “The staff here makes you feel at home and relaxed.”
Pulido said he grew up in Veracruz, Mexico, and immigrated to Georgia when he was 17 years old. One of his first jobs entailed washing dishes at a Mexican restaurant. Over the course of 16 years he climbed up the career ladder and served as a manager.
“This country is wonderful and has a lot of opportunities for people,” Pulido said. “You just have to stay on it and do the right thing.”
After his brother got into an accident and became paralyzed from the waist down, Pulido decided to make another career shift. He opened the first El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant in Cornelia with his brother.
The restaurant’s menu gains a majority of its inspiration from Pulido’s mother, who lives in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Pulido said one of his most popular dishes is the “Mama’s special,” which includes steak, chicken, grilled onions, jalapeños and tomatoes.
People can also order quesadillas, burritos, tacos, nachos, fajitas, tortas and other Mexican classics at the restaurant.
When Pulido and Dunlap got the keys to the business in February 2019, they said the renovations required “all hands on deck.” The staff members pitched in to paint the walls, install the flooring and breath life back into the space.
“It was in bad shape when we got here,” Dunlap said. “We took down everything and put it back together.”
When people enter El Patron Mexican Restaurant in Gainesville, Dunlap said he hopes they feel like they’re coming home.
“We don’t really think we’re better than anybody else, but we put our hearts into it,” he said. “We want everybody to enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about.”
The new El Patron Family Mexican Restaurant is located at 250 John Morrow Jr. Parkway, next to the Bargain Hunt in Gainesville. The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday.
For more information about the business, call 678-971-1048.
This story has been updated from its original version.