If you are Facebook or Instagram friends with me, you’ve seen me post pictures from Johnny’s Masq’Sabor Restaurant before. It’s now time to dig a little deeper.
Meet Johnny Lara, owner and operator. You’ll see him any time you visit Masq`Sabor, he’s always on site 6 days a week (see hours at bottom of post). He is a hard worker, smart business man, and passionate about his food – 3 things you absolutely need to be successful in the restaurant business.
Masq`Sabor, which literally means “more than flavor,” has been open for almost a year now (September 12th will their 1st anniversary). Johnny has whipped this little restaurant into a lovely place to sit with friends or by yourself, and have a bite to eat and drink. He also has free Wi Fi, so bring your laptop or phone along and hang out for a while. His place is clean with bright colors on the walls, and windows that look out onto the street. A couple of fans keep it cool and the air well circulated.
And the food… well I’m sure you know by now that I approve, or I wouldn’t be writing a blog post. It is all very flavorful (hence the name!) and delicious. If you have a question, or have a special request – Johnny will do whatever he can to take care of you. Yep, he’s pretty great. Everything we’ve ever had here has been delicious. Here’s a few of our favorites:
Here’s a little more about Johnny and his business (I love asking questions!):
1. Tell me about you – where were you born, where did you grow up?
I was born in San Josè, Costa Rica. At the age of 8 years old, my father was able to migrate to the U.S. in search of the American dream. While we were in the U.S., my mom was able to file for our (my brother’s & I) visas to study there, so I was able to do my schooling from 5th grade thru J.R. college, all in California. I must add that I am very thankful for all the years that I lived in the U.S. – I always tried to make the best of my time there, being thankful of the great opportunity.
2. Tell me about when you first discovered Mexican food. Did you love it right away?
To help my parents with our home expenses, I was able to apply for a job at a Mexican Restaurant as a host. This place became my second home. I felt part of the team and they were like family to me. Soon, I was asked to become a busser, a waiter, then a bartender, and before I knew it I was managing the Restaurant. I fell in love with the business. So much so, that I directed my Business Management studies toward the hotel & restaurant management business.
3. When did you have the idea for opening up a Mexican restaurant?
Ever since I moved back to Costa Rica, I had the dream of owning my own restaurant. I remember meeting my then girlfriend (now wife) and telling her all of my ideas. I could say I probably very much tired her out with hearing my ideas all the time, yet I think little by little she also started believing in the dream, so much so that she would also start talking about it. I remember going into many restaurants and getting ideas, and talking to her about it. During our vacation trips we would also take in creative ideas, many which we have implemented here at Masq`sabor. The turning point and the start of the Restaurant started during the summer of 2014, when my wife and I started praying for guidance in our believe that if this was a project that was supported by God, He would open doors, and give us the right location for the Restaurant. Also at the time, I remember my wife and I going around and around downtown Grecia, looking for a healthier options for meals. Being a couple who truly enjoy eating great salads, we would have a hard time finding a place to eat, we thought that many ¨Sodas¨ and Restaurants at the time in Grecia directed their menu towards fried and junk food. This is why we implemented into our menu a variety of salads and soups.
4. Is this your first restaurant business?
Yes, this is my first restaurant business, yet we hope it’s the start to others throughout Costa Rica. Clients have come in to Masq`sabor, from other areas of Costa Rica, asking when will we open in other towns… It is truly great to hear that, in a place that has been established for less than a year.
5. Have you always been interested in food?
Coming from a big family, we would always have great meals at home. I remember during the holidays, my mom would always have us invite friends and family for gatherings. Cooking has always been a part of my family. I could also say that if you are going to be in the restaurant business you have to be a ¨people person¨. You have to love, enjoy, and have a passion for this. It’s a business that requires long hours, holidays, and weekends. I feel the experience of a good restaurant is not just in great food, but a clean friendly environment, great service, and overall a place where the people that walk through the door don’t feel like clients, but more like GUESTS.
6. What do you think makes Masq’Sabor successful?
Wow, what a great question. First off, I feel this restaurant has been a success because it has been a gift from God, an answer to our prayers. There is a true and great testimony behind the opening of this restaurant, one that has truly made me stick strongly to my Christian believes. Second, I could say the support and help from my wife and family has made this place what it is. Having my wife, who is an attorney here in Grecia, come in and help me during our lunch rushes is just amazing. I could definitely say this would not be what it is today without her help and support. And I definitely cannot leave out my work crew. The people that work for me are just as important with making this a success. These guys and gals are here from early in the morning preparing our salsas, meats and much more. We also feel we have had a great support from regular guest who have believed in our quality and freshness of our food. Another thing that has truly allowed us to be here, is we strive on maintaining our quality of foods, and this is well appreciated by all, and also reflects on our success. It is important to know that their is much more room to grow. We continue on implementing new dishes every month, and we hope to soon be able to serve draft beer and great quality margaritas with our dishes… I will keep you all posted on this.
And to wrap this up, I leave you with some coffee and dessert pics:
Mon – Thu: 11:30 am – 8:00 pm
Fri: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm
Sat: 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Location: Next to the Post Office, Central Grecia, Alajuela