Lopez opens new restaurant “ISABELAS mexican author cuisine”

Carlos and Isabel in Leavenworth Photo by Erin Mullins

Carlos Bernal Lopez and his wife Isabel Tapia Franco met by the gazebo on a bright and hot summer day for an interview about their new business, “ISABELAS mexican author cuisine.” Lopez, owner of Pavz Tacos in Leavenworth and Taqueria El Chavo in Cashmere recently decided to expand his repertoire with a new high-end restaurant in Pavz Tacos’ back room called ISABELAS.

Lopez said his wife’s specialty is creating food that is visually artistic, which is reflected in the short but elegant menu at ISABELAS.

“She is an artist. She is very good with decoration” he said.  “I mean, I can cook, but I never can set a plate like she does… my wife and my daughter their job is the presentation of things. And my daughter Yohana is more on the front of house too.”

Yohana (pronounced Joanna) is eighteen and turns nineteen this year but has always helped with the family businesses, he said.  ISABELAS was created to be a fusion of Mexican cuisine with other cultures, like Asian or European and offer a high-end experience, Lopez said. He is not aware of any other restaurants in the valley with the same cultural fusions.

 Lopez came to the Leavenworth area in 2018 to be a chef at Rhein Haus. From there, he opened a catering company.  Eventually, he bought Pavz and then later bought Taqueria El Chavo. ISABELAS is his latest of many ventures.

“We are just trying to survive these hard times, you know. Because in this town everything is expensive,” Lopez said.  “So right now, as you see, it is not a normal summer, you know. It is hard.  We needed a regular summer, but we didn’t get it. So, we had to try and make ways for the business to survive. “

Lopez said at first his wife was resistant to the idea of opening a new restaurant in the back room of Pavz because she felt it might betray the loyal customers who have supported Pavz throughout the years.  But when they talked it over, she warmed up to the idea because both restaurants, Pavz and ISABELAS, could operate without excluding each other.

Franco said that she likes the concept of ISABELAS now.  She said that her favorite dish is the Tequila Pasta, which features fettuccine pasta with a creamy California pepper sauce and prawns.

Lopez said that is his favorite dishes are “everything” but if he had to narrow it down his favorite appetizer is the Tuna Aguachile (pronounced agua-chi-le) and that is favorite main courses are the Mole Jalisco (pronounced huh-li-skow) and Tequila Pasta.

The Mole Jalisco is made “Jalisco Style”, so it is sweet and not spicy, the same way mole is cooked in Jalisco, Mexico.  Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-kuh) is known for having the best mole, Lopez said, but the way he knows how to make mole is in the Jalisco style.  The dish consists of a lamb rack covered with mole sauce and served with vegetable, baked potatoes, and carrots.

Tuna Aguachile is a raw tuna dish served with serrano sauce and avocado. Lopez said he is very careful with the temperature of the tuna when he prepares the dish, and that the tuna is fresh.  He said that the Beef Tenderloin Taco, the Mole Jalisco and the Tuna Aguachile are most popular so far.  People will come to the restaurant in groups and split dishes, he said.

Lopez is surprised that the restaurant has so far attracted not only a middle-aged demographic but a younger one as well.

“The turnout is starting slowly, but it is good, you know,” he said. “You know what I got surprised, young people are coming too. There were young people from Wenatchee who wanted to check the place out because they like to eat and have a different experience.”

Lopez may have young visitors, but he also relies on some younger workers in their early adult years to run his restaurant.  He said the young workers have been “very mature” and helped him a lot.  ISABELAS may add a few items to the menu, but the menu is purposefully small so it can feature original, fresh, and high-end dishes.

“We will probably add some lobster enchiladas,” he said. “I want to add a little more Asian cuisine to the menu, probably another two plates of that to play with the flavors.”

Leavenworth residents Luke and Stephanie Astell recently visited ISABELAS and enjoyed their experience. They went to the restaurant as a date night and to try something new and have been to Pavz in the past

“The dishes were unique and flavorful,” Luke said. “The staff was motivated and attentive. You could really tell how passionate the owners are about creating a great menu.”

Dinner is available at ISABELAS, Thursday through Monday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 833 Front Street, Leavenworth.


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