MASQ`SABOR – Mexican food in the heart of Grecia!

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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.

Johnny Lara, owner/operator/chef

Johnny Lara, owner/operator/chef

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.

johnny kitchen

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:

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Chicken Taco Salad

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Sopa Azteca (like a tortilla soup)

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Fajitas Especiales (shrimp, chicken & beef), with tortillas

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Empanada – chicken or beef

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Chicken Tacos

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:

Cappucino

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Oreo Ice Cream Shake (photo credit:  Johnny Lara)

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White and Chocolate Cake – made fresh every day.

Hours:
Mon – Thu:     11:30 am – 8:00 pm
Fri:                  11:30 am – 9:00 pm
Sat:                  12:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Phone:          4030-6900

Facebook:   Masq`Sabor

Location:    Next to the Post Office, Central Grecia, Alajuela

dessertsThat’s all for now folks! — Jen

Jen

I quit my job in my early 40’s, sold everything and retired early to live a simple life in Costa Rica!

Check out my book: "Costa Rica Chica" - the book.

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10 Responses to MASQ`SABOR – Mexican food in the heart of Grecia!

  1. OMG looks absolutely delicious! Great to hear more healthy food options are in Grecia. I will have to get back there one of these days!

  2. What a lovely review. I really liked the added feature of you asking Johnny questions. Having been to MasQ’Sabor when we visited you, I can vouch for everything you share – the delicious food, excellent personal service and nice locale too. I wish Johnny and his wife the best and hopefully they will be able to further expand to other cities.

  3. What a great review. I really like that you interviewed the owner to give that personal touch. When we come to Costa Rica later this fall we are definitely going to have to go check this restaurant out . Thanks for the information

  4. Jen I sent you an email this morning with an article/recipe from today’s (9/27) edition of the San Antonio Express News – Chiles en nogada. Perhaps you can share it with senor Lara.

    We, Mary Anne and I – Don, are great fans of Tex-Mex cuisine, and San Antonio has some of the best truly Tex- Mex foods in all of Texas. El Paso has really great Mexican food, but it has a very decided New Mexican native influence which is nothing like the food which one gets here in San Antonio.

    I enjoy reading your blog by the way. I don’t always get to them early on, but get to them I do.

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