When Beto Rodarte and his son, Julian, ease into patio chairs outside their restaurant, it’s the middle of a sweltering Wednesday afternoon. Even so, Beto & Son is more than half full, with just a handful of empty tables dotting the spaces between patrons who’ve come to enjoy “next-gen” Mexican cuisine.
Beto and Julian have labeled their brand of Mexican food “next generation,” since it’s aimed at indulging Instagram-obsessed millennials and foodies of all ages. Julian admits opening a Mexican restaurant in Texas is like bringing sand to the beach, but he and his father have found a way not just to individuate, but to thrive.
Beto & Son is the top-grossing restaurant of the 13 concepts in Trinity Groves, a 15-acre restaurant incubator in West Dallas. Each of Trinity Groves’ concepts builds on about 2,500 square feet, relying on financial capital from investors who take partial ownership. Phil Romano, co-founder and investor in the incubator, set an annual sales goal of $1 million to $1.5 million for each concept. During 2017, its first year, Beto & Son brought in $4.5 million.
Beto & Son is famous for its ceviche tower and liquid nitrogen margaritas, prepared tableside. The restaurant sells about 200 of the specialty margaritas each weekend day. (That’s about one every four minutes the restaurant is open.) Julian says the restaurant tailors its menu to the tastes of Dallas, and all of its food is locally sourced—the flour tortillas are made in-house, the corn tortillas are cooked just three blocks away.
Before the restaurant opened in November 2016, Beto had spent years both in the culinary corporate world and as the manager of his own restaurants. Julian, who had been a corporate chef for companies such as Denny’s, had never managed a restaurant. He was—and at age 25, still is—the youngest co-owner in the incubator.
“I had never run a restaurant, managed, created a bar program, cost out a menu. I was new. I had to learn,” Julian says. “Now … I’m very confident in it, a year and a half later.”
Beto was born in Mexico but soon moved to Del Rio, Texas, where he farmed and raised sheep with his grandparents. “We lived off the land, farm-to-table kind of deal,” Beto says.
“Before that was trendy,” Julian laughs.
After meeting his wife, Beth, now the assistant manager at Beto & Son, Beto attended culinary school and worked as a chef in New York and California. In 1993, Romano called and asked if he’d like to start a Mexican restaurant in San Antonio. It was his first foray into casual dining. Though he became a corporate chef after the restaurant was bought out, he saved the lessons he’d learned for his future business.
At Beto & Son, about 1,000 customers cycle through the restaurant each weekend day, and wait times can stretch up to two hours on Saturdays. Bob Sambol, Trinity Groves’ operations manager, says Beto & Son has cashed in on all of Trinity Groves’ goals. “They’re the epitome of what we’re looking for,” Sambol says. “Their sole goal every day is to make sure Beto & Son runs correctly and grows. They have a great feel for the business. That feeling flows over to the customer.”
Beto and Julian say it’s too early to talk about opening another Beto & Son, but if they found the right real estate, they might even try a new genre—perhaps Korean, Japanese, Italian, or French food.
For now, though, they’ll continue to perfect the cuisine Dallas-Fort Worth craves. “Mexican food, it’s what we know. It’s what we grew up with,” Julian says. “It’s what’s in our blood.”