Sometimes, you just want to stay where everybody knows your name.
“I think if we’re going to make it with our business, it will be… where everybody knows me,” said Arturo Sahagun, who after 10 years of working for Jalisco Mexican restaurant in Canyon Park, struck out on his own in early October, opening Pasion Tequila on Bothell Way Northeast.
“In this economy, it would be tough to go someplace else and start from scratch,” Sahagun added.
Of course, Sahagun hopes his customers just want to eat where everybody knows their name.
Sitting in Pasion Tequila, Sahagun greets more than one visitor by name, as does his staff, which also just happens to be most of his family. Sahagun’s wife, mother, brother and brother-in-law are all on the payroll.
“Everybody works here,” Sahagun said. “It’s a family restaurant.”
Whatever is Sahagun’s main approach — keeping things in the family or staying close to home — that approach seems to be working.
“The food is just better than other… restaurants. It has more flavor,” said customer Peter Stockton, who followed Sahagun from Jalisco and is clearly a regular even though Pasion Tequila only has been open a month or so. Stockton doesn’t have to really order a drink, just agree with the waitress that he wants the usual.
Sahagun said there were a couple of different ideas behind the name of the new restaurant, the most important in his mind being the passion he said he has for his food.
“We really have a lot of pride in it,” Sahagun said, noting as one simple proof of that pride that the restaurant’s vegetables are all fresh and prepared daily.
“Nothing is canned,” Sahagun said, adding Pasion’s salsa is made from scratch, not with tomato juice, but with roasted tomatoes.
The “Tequila” part of the name is a reflection of Sahagun’s clear pride in his heritage. He said obviously tequila is a popular drink in Mexico, as well as one contribution of that culture to the world. In the end, Sahagun said he put the two words — “pasion,” with a Spanish spelling, and “tequila” — together and just liked the sound of it.
Sahagun wants to show some pride in his heritage in another way, as well. A mural going up on the side of the restaurant depicts some of Mexico’s “gifts to the world,” according to artist Rene Julio. Those gifts include corn and tequila, represented in the mural by the appropriate Aztec god. The mural also includes the gods of fire and water.
“You need water to grow food and fire to cook it,” Sahagun notes.
Born in California, Sahagun mostly grew up in Mexico before returning to this country at age 15. He immediately started working in the restaurant business. But he notes for someone from Cuautla, Mexico, that’s not really all that unusual. Sahagun said any number of Mexican restaurants in this area and elsewhere — including Azteca and Jalisco — were started by transplants from Cuautla. “Jalisco” is the name of the central Mexican state where the small town of Cuautla is located. A native of Cuautla, Sahagun’s late father, Arturo Sahagun Sr., also was in the restaurant business.
“I think of the work we do as part of his dream, too,” Sahagun said. “I think of him all the time when I’m here.”
For now, Sahagun said about 80 percent of his customers have followed him from Jalisco. But he also sees some new faces, a fact he finds encouraging. He’s also learning some new things about his old customers.
For example, he never knew his regulars included some of the coaches for the Bothell High football team now making its way through the state playoffs. Still, after a recent game, Sahagun was more than happy to stay open late so those coaches could celebrate a victory.
“They had a good time, just like I want everybody to have a good time here.”
• Pasion Tequila is located at 19103 Bothell Way N.E. Information: (425) 488-1308.