Know Your Neighbor: Yamil Isbak

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Yamil Isbak and his wife, Marisela Adame, recently started a new twist on the local restaurant scene, one that sets their business (Jalapeños by Antonio) apart from the others. Unlike other restaurants, Jalapeños by Antonio makes deliveries in the Taos town limits.

The restaurant, located at 210 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, the former Stella’s II Restaurant across the street from McDonald’s, was also the site of a Chinese and then a Thai restaurant. Its present mission includes offering starters, quesadillas, ensaladas, tacos, flautas, rellenos, burgers and fries. “I grew up in Xalapa, Vera Cruz in Mexico,” said Isbak during a recent interview at his restaurant. “I knew Antonio Matus [owner of Antonio's A Taste of Mexico] when we were growing up. I worked in restaurants in Mexico."

Isbak added, "Not all my work in Mexico was in the restaurant business. In Cancun, I did public relations work for restaurants, discos and bars for 25 years. Then, I was a uniform factory owner, making clothing for people working in hotels and restaurants.”

When Isbak decided to move to the United States, Matus encouraged him. Isbak worked in several restaurants: as a server at Antonio’s, six years as a cashier at the north Guadalajara Grill, then as a server at La Cueva, the Bistro and Stella’s.

Matus and his wife, Sarah, had moved to Colorado, but upon their return recently, Isbak once again joined forces with Antonio’s A Taste of Mexico. He worked half of the day for Matus and half of the day for Guadalajara Grill. His dream, however, was to own a taquería. The opportunity arose with help from Matus. On May 12, the taco restaurant Jalapeños by Antonio opened for business.

In addition to Matus, Isbak credits family members for help and support. In addition to ownership interest, Yamil’s wife serves as a prep cook and busser. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Adame worked at The Gorge for three years. Three cooks – Francisco, Alma and Veronica – prepare the foods of their native Mexico. Isbak performs whatever task necessary to keep the restaurant working smoothly, and that includes serving and busing.

One of his daughters used her talents as a graphic designer to create the restaurant’s logo and menu. Isbak has six children, all of whom reside in Mexico.

He grew up in a family that valued education; his parents and siblings worked as professors.

When Isbak moved to Taos 17 years ago, he was 33 years old. The would-be restaurateur first laid eyes on Taos after a trip from Cancun followed by a bus ride here from Denver, Colorado. He found the cold climate, snow and people much to his liking as he continued to know the community. “I’m here because of Antonio. I worked with him in El Prado and liked the community so much that I never left,” said Isbak.

The eatery offers appetizers or starters such as the traditional chips and salsa, guacamole, tableside mahi mahi ceviche, green chile stew or potato cream soup with poblanos. Different types of quesadillas, ensaladas and street tacos offer an array of meats, vegetables and spices. Tacos dorados differ from others because of their crispiness. Three different types of flautas each offer a main tasty ingredient – black bean, shredded chicken or shredded leg of lamb. Rellenos also showcase three different special foods – shrimp, black bean with plantain or blue crab. If one doesn’t wish to eat these delectable Mexican foods, then burgers and fries remain available. In addition, special extras include Taos-style enchiladas, burritos and tacos.

Isbak and his wife spend a lot of time and energy to make the fledgling business a success. The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday brunch occurs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The business closes on Mondays.

During free time, the restaurateur fixes his cars and works on his land. He especially enjoys cleaning and organizing. Isbak likes to travel, and in the U.S., he has visited Las Vegas, Nevada; Denver; Albuquerque; and Santa Fe. He also likes to watch movies, especially Bruce Willis action movies and Eugenio Derbez comedies.

Whether at work or home, Isbak listed his favorite meals as chile rellenos jalapeños, in which he removes the seeds of the chile and cooks the food with an egg, Vera Cruz style.

In general, this week’s subject is thankful to Taos because of the excellent treatment he’s received here. He also thinks Taos does not experience as much crime as other communities. “I’m a happy, lucky man,” he said.

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