Whether it’s the homemade tortillas or the vegetarian green chile made with Pueblo chiles that draws customers to Julians Restaurant, 2111 W. Northern Ave., they always get a healthy dose of art with their meals.
The former Herrera’s eatery was bought by Cat Tamasonis and her husband, Daniel Arellano, five years ago. At the time, she was working as a nurse for a nursing home and he was working for the city’s water treatment plant.
“I had had a chocolate store in Washington state and never thought of doing Mexican food or any type of restaurant. My sister Betty Ann Lopez and our family all have Burrito’s Betty here in Colorado,” Tamasonis said.
Arellano took a year off to help launch the restaurant. Although he is back with the city running the ice arena and swimming pool, he works weekends at the restaurant.
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Julians is named after a family member
Lopez, who also works as a nurse, pitched in to help start the restaurant and continues to help out when she can. The eatery is named after Lopez’s son Julian who is Tamasonis’ godson.
Julian is 13 and when he turns 14, “you will see a lot of Jules in here,” she said with a laugh.
“Daniel is the tortilla maker — he comes in here and rolls those perfect circles and makes that masa for us with those big ol’ hands of his. My sister started the vegetarian chile recipe and she’s been with me from the beginning,” Tamasonis said.
“All of my food is vegetarian based. Our green chile is popular and I use only Pueblo chiles,” which are locally grown. “Everything has a soy-based oil and I can do vegan or vegetarian and then for anybody that likes the meat products — the porks and things like that — we can add it on request.”
Art is prevalent inside and out of the Pueblo eatery
An eye-catching Colorado-themed Matte Refic mural graces the outside of the restaurant which Arellano decided was needed after the building got tagged with graffiti.
He knew the mural was a solution to stop the graffiti and having taken high school art classes with Refic, he knew who to call.
“You will see our four granddaughters’ names in the art he put onto the wall. When we lost our neighbor friend Roman (Ortiz) who owned Roman’s Barber Shop next door to us, he (Refic) also did the mural for Roman on the other side of the building,” Tamasonis said.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant stayed open for takeout. Arellano did all the cooking and Tamasonis delivered the food.
“We didn’t have employees because everyone had to move on or get on unemployment,” she said. “Everybody was real generous and I saved all my tips and we saved every penny,” Tamasonis said.
“When I saved enough, we bought new dishes and when we saved more we ordered our furniture. Pueblo is huge to me so when we did the remodel in the front I wanted Pueblo to show inside the restaurant.”.
The inside features a floor to ceiling Armando Chavez photo of the steel mill. Another wall features the entire city photographed at night.
“People like to sit there and point out where they work. We want people to come in here and have things to talk about — this place has been known as a place for family, where you can bring your kids and make family stories,” Tamasonis said.
“During the beginning of COVID whether it was our customers, U.S. Foods that provides our food orders or our neighbor businesses, they were all wanting to donate to us,” she said. “What we did every time someone did that is put in a grocery order and we did surprise party pack lunches for families when the schools closed and then we did the same for the police departments, fire departments and hospitals.”
“That’s what I think kept us going was doing things like that.”
A few new employees have been hired to help run the restaurant now that it has reopened for dine-in business.
The restaurant hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The restaurant phone number is 561-4040.