When Julie Kuslrud opened Los Gables in 2006, she had plenty of experience as a waitress, having worked as one at various restaurants for most of her adult life. However, running her own restaurant was a whole new ball game. On top of that learning curve, she also knew nothing about Mexican food. “I didn’t know an enchilada from a burrito,” she said, laughing.
So why did she decide to open a Mexican restaurant? “I wanted something different,” Kulsrud said. She knew there weren’t any in the Fillmore County area and thought that it would be unique. She hired a Mexican couple, Jose and Margarita Gomez, to cook and help her run Los Gables in Fountain. “They were in business before so we started with a menu that they had used,” she said. Margarita, who had been a caterer in Mexico, used her authentic Mexican recipes at Los Gables, cooking everything from scratch.
At first, Kulsrud had no plans to do any of the cooking at the restaurant, but with Margarita and Jose leaving to go back to Mexico periodically or to visit their adult children who lived in the Twin Cities area, she soon realized that she had no choice.
I’d done a lot of cooking and baking at home for my family,” she said, “But I had never cooked for the public.” Margarita taught Kulsrud how to cook authentic Mexican food using her recipes and before she knew it, Kulsrud was cooking for customers and loving it.
Having Margarita dn Jose working at the restaurant for the first five years of business was invaluable to Kulsrud. “They really spoiled me,” she laughed. “They were a wonderful family.” The couple treated Los Gables like it was their own business, going above and beyond to make sure things ran smoothly.
Kulsrud is dedicated to serving only high quality food to her customers.
She sources her fresh ingredients and grass-fed beef from local vendors and cooks everything from scratch, staying true to the recipes that Margarita used. In addition to the authentic Mexican menu (not to be confused with Tex-Mex), she also serves breakfast on weekends with both Mexican and American dishes.
One of the things that Kulsrud loves most about running Los Gables is meeting and interacting with people. “I’ve always worked with the public, and I don’t know anything I’d rather do,” she said.
In the 11 years since she opened Los Gables, Kulsrud has seen a lot of change in the business world, especially in regards to technology. She’s adapted and kept up as well as she could, but it hasn’t been easy.
Despite the stress of being a business owner, Kulsrud has no regrets.
“It’s been a really fun ride,” she said. “We’ve come through some hard economic times, but we’ve survived.”
Kulsrud is thankful for all of her customers, but especially the regulars who are familiar faces at Los Gables. “If not for our regular customers, we would not be here,” she said, pointing out that while tourism is a big part of business in the area, it’s a seasonal trend. Local people are how restaurants like hers survive in the off-season.
Los Gables is currently for sale, but Kulsrud has no intention of closing. “I’ll keep it open until it sells,” she said. In the meantime, she plans to continue enjoying her time there. When the restaurant does sell down the road, she would love to be able to spend more time with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren while staying put right where she is. “I love the area. I don’t want to live anywhere else,” she said.