Those looking for a festive night out always can expect good food, excellent service and plenty of company among neighbors at Jose’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant.
The Baraboo eatery celebrated its fifth year in business March 2. Located along Eighth Street on the east side of town in a former Dairy Queen building, the restaurant has generated a significant following among patrons and was named Business of the Year in 2015 by the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce.
Despite operating a second location in Adams, owner Jose Vera frequently can be found in his flagship Baraboo restaurant greeting patrons at the door, checking on their tables and occasionally distributing complimentary shots of tequila in the dining room.
Vera said the restaurant’s fajitas generate a lot of attention as the sizzling plates are whisked out of the kitchen four and five deep on the arms of servers, but it’s the carnitas dish where he hangs his sombrero.
“It makes me happy to see customers in awe as my staff serves our hot, sizzling fajitas four to five on their arm,” Vera said. “But if you want something different and truly slow-cooked special, I recommend the carnitas.”
Due to their popularity, carnitas have been dubbed the “king of the taco cart.” Vera was born in coastal Vera Cruz Mexico, about 400 miles from where the most famous version of the dish comes from in Michoacán in central Mexico.
Similar to American pulled pork, the dish is moist and juicy.
“It takes a talent, a special hand to make carnitas,” Vera said. “The pork chunks are cooked very slowly and at a low temperature until they are cooked to perfection.”
Baraboo resident Renee Stelzer, a self-described regular at Jose’s, said the carnitas are impeccable.
“It nearly melts in your mouth,” Stelzer said.
She also praised the customer-friendly restaurant staff.
“Jose and his staff always aim to please and you can modify your order in any way you want,” Stelzer said. “If you don’t want onions, just say so.”
Vera emigrated from Mexico to Eau Claire when he was 12 and began running his first restaurant at 14.
“I fell in love with Baraboo about 15 years ago when I was working for someone else in Eau Claire,” he said. “I like to make every day a celebration and think it is important to be a part of the community.”
Jose’s sponsors many community events from sports teams and outings to fundraisers for people who are ill, to the fire department and the local police.
“I do benefits because I think if you are part of a community that is what community is about. We are all brothers and sisters. I look at all people as just people, not people of color. My heart is in this community and it comes from my heart to give back.”
Vera said he still enjoys each day at the restaurant.
“I still get a kick out of remembering in the beginning when locals would call or ask if we were the Mexican Dairy Queen,” he said. “It has been fun and it never gets old for me.”