El Patron

By LAURIE LUCAS / STAFF WRITER Press Enterprise

 

Derelict for nearly two years, the three-story, 8,000-square-foot historic train station at 3204 Mission Inn Ave. in Riverside has come chugging back to life in yet another incarnation.

The new tenant, Jose Hernandez, 58, of Corona has gutted, remodeled and transformed the downtrodden 1904 depot into a restaurant called El Patron, a stunning homage to

his native Mexico.

El Patron opened in November, and a grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 15.

Hernandez’s eye and attention to detail are impressive. He fell in love with the building’s good bones and design, which reminded him of Mexico. “I made it look colonial Mexican-style, with a lot of art and arches,” he said.

The metamorphosis has been time-consuming and costly. Every inch, from the clay roof tiles and rustic chandeliers to the pine wheel sconces, granite bar counters and wooden tiled floors, Hernandez imported from Guadalajara.

From the weekend mariachi music to the unpretentious menu, “everything is very authentic, affordable and family-friendly,” Hernandez said. “No fancy cloth stuff.”

The menu’s humongous fiesta platters ($9-$15) include homemade tacos, grilled chorizo, tostadas, enchiladas and boiled white marinated fish, plus soy substitutes for vegetarians. For now, the restaurant seats about 120 on the first floor and side patio. The fate of the upstairs is still, well, up in the air.

Hernandez has worked all his life in food service toward fulfilling his dream of launching El Patron, which means “the boss.” His wife, Claudia, keeps the books, and the boss partnered with his two eldest sons, Edgar, 23, and Mike, 19, to help run the joint. “I’m doing this for them,” Jose Hernandez said.