Cinco de Mayo is celebrated to commemorate Mexico's triumph over the French empire on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla.
Mexico's victory and freedom has turned into a global celebration of Mexican culture that's even spread through Sault Ste. Marie.
“We would probably be speaking French, but they fought for their land,” said Jose’s Mexican Restaurant co-owner Andres Perez.
It was Perez’s dream to work in the food industry, like his father before him.
“I co-own this with my brother, Juan Pablo Perez, and cousin, Juan Manuel Perez,” he said. “The restaurant was named after my grandpa and dad. That’s how it got its name.”
There are seven family members operating Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, always happy to bring others on board as well.
“I am from Georgia,” said Perez. “Four of us are from Georgia and three are from Marquette.”
When down south, Perez managed a Mexican restaurant. He loved it so much that he wanted his own. A little over three years ago, it all started coming together.
“A friend of mine is married to my cousin and works here,” said Perez. “He traveled a lot to this town. He asked why we don’t put a Mexican restaurant here.”
So, Perez drove the 20-plus hours to the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
“They told me there was a place in Sault Ste Marie I should go look at,” he said. “We made an appointment to see the building. The first time, it was full of snow. Why would I come to the middle of nowhere?” It was all covered in snow, all the way from the parking lot to the building.”
After spending a little more time in the area, sightseeing and meeting people, he was sold on the idea.
“We decided to buy the building,” Perez said. “We opened in December of 2019. I always wanted it to happen. We got this building. We painted and upgraded the kitchen. We turned this building into the way we wanted it.”
Traditional Mexican music plays throughout the large orange and yellow building. Its walls are decorated "Mexican style," bringing pictures and frames straight from Mexico.
Unfortunately, it opened only three months before COVID struck the Sault.
“It was kind of hard for us,” said Perez. “It was a rough year. We did carry out and delivery. We tried to make this dream go on.”
He thanked the community for its support, especially all the “big” takeout orders.
“They said, ‘Guys, we don’t want you to go anywhere,” Perez proudly explained. “They loved this food.”
Perez described his favorite menu item on the list. It is a large 12-inch four tortilla filled with grilled chicken chorizo, marinated steak, rice, onions, mushrooms, and cilantro. Chipotle ranch is drizzled all over it.
“It is something I used to make for myself,” he said, moving on to the next menu option. "People love authentic Mexican tacos. Some people call them street tacos. It was hard to get shells to make them.”
The family would drive seven hours downstate and seven hours back just to purchase the shells. Eventually, they found a provider.
“The shell is different,” he said. “It’s the taste of the shell. There are a lot of corn shells but not all taste the same. This type of shell is amazing.”
Another thing that makes Jose’s cuisine “authentic” is its special steak, chicken and shrimp seasonings.
“We marinate before cooking,” said Perez. “The cheese is a special recipe too. Everything here, we make.”
Customer satisfaction is everything to the family of staff at Jose's.
“We have a lot of regular customers,” said Perez. “We don’t want to just label regulars. I live for my customers. They want to come back. We always put customers in front of us. I am just very thankful to this town because they are making my dream come true. I want to be here forever.”
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, Perez invites all Jose’s customers to get to know Mexican culture and history. Everyone is invited in to celebrate with half-off margaritas and draft beer all day long.
Jose's Mexican Restaurant is located at 3583 I-75 Business Spur, Sault Ste. Marie.