When Everardo “Lalo” Alvarez was a child, his parents taught him hard work could open a world full of possibilities. Now, he’s works as a cook in a hospital during the day, and at night, he lives his dream of being a restaurant owner and chef.
“[It’s been my dream] since I started cooking when I was 13-years-old,” Alvarez said. “This is one of my passions, to cook.”
A little over a month ago, Alvarez said he told his wife he was tired of living to pay the bills: He wanted more, and suggested they open a restaurant. He pulled his dream together — including purchasing restaurant equipment and renovations — in one month. Last week, he opened The Corner Lalo’s Kitchen at 5038 Lamar Avenue, which serves authentic Mexican food such as tortas, enchiladas and menudo.
Alvarez has more than 24 years of culinary experience under his belt, including time spent managing a large Italian restaurant. Owning a restaurant has been a challenge, he said, one that required him to sacrifice days off and take risks. One thing that hasn’t changed by becoming a restaurant owner is the heart he has to put into his career, he said.
“You can go anywhere and get a paycheck, but you have to care,” Alvarez said. “You have to care about the food you’re making, about the people in your restaurant — you have to care about everything.”
The top priorities at The Corner are quality food and customer service, Alvarez said. He buys all of the food fresh and prepares it himself, and greets and checks up on each customer himself. In order to make himself more visible to customers, Alvarez created a large window that allows customers to see the kitchen.
For Alvarez, customer satisfaction is the most rewarding part of the job. He said he challenges himself each day to put a smile on at least one customer’s face. Instead of focusing on the money customers bring in, Alvarez said he focuses on making customers feel like they just walked into their grandma’s house.
“I want to make sure [customers] are happy and satisfied, because to me, happy customers are a happy family,” Alvarez said. “I look at every single customer that comes through that door as my family.”
Although his lifelong dream has come true, Alvarez isn’t stopping with The Corner. Alvarez said he wants to create job opportunities for people who want to work, and hopes to do so by opening another location and even incorporating catering into his business model.
The restaurant is open weeknights and weekends, but Alvarez plans to shift to a full time schedule in the future. Vegetarian options are currently available at The Corner, and Alvarez said he plans to expand and adjust the menu over time.