Although they have been neighbors for more than 15 years, Jhony Virreira and Pablo Santibanes—who have a combined 30-plus years in the restaurant industry—needed the help of their sons to come together to open Victoria’s Mexican Grill & Bar.
The parrilla combo for two (36.99) includes combination fajitas, four bacon-wrapped shrimp and a side of roasted baby back barbecue ribs.[/caption]
“We were living across the street for 15 years. We never shook hands. We never talked. We never had a beer together,” co-owner and chef Santibanes said. “But, our kids are best friends. One day, my son told him I was looking to open my own restaurant, and he had the same idea. He decided to cross the street and come talk to me about it.”
The duo has taken that conversation and turned it into what Virreira calls the best-kept secret in Richmond.
Virreira and Santibanes opened the Mexican eatery in 2015, branching out from culinary jobs at national brands to take on their own place.
“We come up with different menu items that most Mexican restaurants don’t have,” Virreira said. “We’re trying to innovate. Whether we go to an Italian restaurant or American restaurant, we try to bring those ideas into a Mexican-style cuisine.”
Innovating means anything from topping enchiladas with bacon wrapped shrimp or tacking on a side of baby back barbecue ribs with an order of fajitas. Virreira said the key is making sure variety doesn’t affect quality.
Back in the kitchen, Santibanes said all that matters to him—and perhaps more so, the customer—is cooking up a quality product that tastes good.
“It doesn’t matter what kitchen you cook in, you are still responsible for a good product. There is no difference if it is for you or someone else. You are responsible to satisfy hungry people. That’s what I do,” Santibanes said.
Atlhough the restaurant features a bar area and drink specials, Virreira said the most important thing to him is making sure Victoria’s maintains a family atmosphere.
“We are a family-oriented business,” Virreira said. “People suggest we do karaoke or bar specials, but experience has shown us that if we do that, we lose our family customers. We would rather be a family-oriented business than known for our bar. Although, we do have a great margarita.”