When Mireya Godinez-Valencia opened her first restaurant, Mezcal Grill, in Natomas in 2009, she was a complete novice with no experience running a commercial kitchen. “She used to cook for us at home and her food was amazing, but she was not used to cooking on a bigger scale,” explains her son, Enrikke, who helps operate the family business along with siblings Eddie and Erika. That’s why it’s even more impressive that Mireya now owns two of the city’s most esteemed Mexican eateries. (A second Mezcal Grill opened on Broadway in Tahoe Park in 2019.)
How’d she do it? “I think it’s all about her hospitality,” says Enrikke. “From the very start, she wanted to host customers like they were friends and family in her home.” Connecting with people is Mireya’s gift. “She likes to entertain. She likes to talk to people. Even though she’s not at the restaurant every day, when she does come in, customers recognize her right away and want to take photos with her.”
Mezcal Grill also happens to serve great food. “In the beginning, we had a chef who played an important role in helping us develop our menu,” Enrikke says. “We included foods from all over Mexico because we wanted to appeal to everyone. We have foods from Jalisco, Michoacán, even Southern California-style burritos.” Mezcal Grill’s carnitas, among the most popular dishes, “are made the way my grandma made them many years ago.”
The bar offerings have improved considerably since the restaurant first opened. Back then, “we had no idea how to run a bar program,” admits Enrikke, who pitches in to tend bar when needed. The cocktail menu features a classic lineup of margaritas as well as inventive concoctions like the Drunk Tamarindo, made with mezcal, tamarind syrup, lime and agave and garnished with sweet-and-sour tamarindo candy.
In the end, Mezcal Grill is the kind of restaurant you want to root for, especially in light of the pandemic shuttering many beloved family-run operations like this one. Mireya, a single mom who quit her previous job to open a restaurant because, according to Enrikke, “she didn’t want to work for a company anymore,” toiled every day from open to close in the early years, giving it all she had. “She is our biggest hero. She is a go-getter, very ambitious and hardworking. Everything we know is because of her.”
1620 W El Camino Ave #172, Sacramento, CA 95833