I’d seen messages pop up on my Facebook feed from Gonzalo’s Mexican Restaurant in Longview in recent months.
People I know are fans of this decades-old establishment, which has made its appeal to longtime and new customers several times: “...With so many restaurants opening this past year, it’s been hard on the small businesses. Therefore I am not sure how much longer I will stay in business. Come and get your fill while we’re still here. (hopefully it will be a long time),” a November post said.
That was followed by a December post that said, “I would like to thank all my friends and customers for the support you’ve have given me. I feel I can now continue to be here for all of you. .. I really do appreciate your business. I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” And there were a couple more recent reminders that the restaurant needs the support of its friends and customers.
Gonzalo Hernandez started his restaurant 39 years ago, with about 38 years of those years at its current location on Loop 281, adjacent to the Northwest Village shopping center. I’d only been to the restaurant once, years ago when I was in high school, but didn’t really recall much about the experience. I decided to grab my mom — she’s a tough food critic — and my preschooler so we could re-introduce ourselves to this locally owned restaurant.
I’ll admit to being unimpressed by the restaurant’s tired interior, but I loved that Hernandez sat in what seemed to be a favorite corner, interacting with customers, manning the cash register and generally being friendly. When my young companion had trouble sitting in his chair, Hernandez kindly offered a booster seat to help out with the situation. I liked that it was a completely kind and helpful gesture, not a pushy one by someone who was irritated by my child.
Service was quick, and we soon had chips and hot sauce in front of us — mild and hotter versions. Gonzalo’s is known for making just about everything from scratch, except for the tortillas, so I was curious how my mom would rate the hot sauce.
My preschooler went to town on the flavorful milder version, while my mom started on the hotter version. Turns out, we struck hot sauce gold. My mom paid it the highest compliment she could: She’d like to buy the hot sauce to eat at home. The preschooler refused to eat anything but the chips and hot sauce, so he presumably like it too.
My mom and I selected meals that included tacos, and we were unanimous in our review: They were excellent. The beef was deliciously seasoned, topped with generous amounts of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
I wished I’d ordered just tacos, though, instead of the plate with cheese enchiladas. The enchiladas weren’t served quite hot enough and didn’t make the same impression as the tacos.
In total, Gonzalo’s is a dining experience I’d like to repeat. I hear he’s known for his chili rellenos, fajitas and tacos al carbon and I’d like to give them a try.