.Olivia’s Lets Customers Customize

As They Like It

For David Espinoza’s mom, Olivia, opening her namesake café was a full-circle moment. She was born in Mexico and grew up in Watsonville, working in restaurants from a young age and learning the industry from firsthand experience. She opened her own spot in 1985 in Salinas before moving Olivia’s to Watsonville in 2017, closing the loop. David helped out there as a kid before returning to work full-time last year after going to college for computer science and working in tech for a while.

The family-run spot has a vintage feel, the building was originally a house before becoming a business, and David says the traditional Michoacan-based Mexican food menu based on family recipes has a “grandma cooked it” vibe. The machaca headlines the breakfast offerings, combining shredded beef with eggs and a homemade sauce with onion, tomato and jalapeño. Lunch/dinner stand-outs include chile verde that pairs tomatillo sauce with braised pork, and Olivia’s take on a Salvadoran pupusa called a “Popusa,” which David likens to a Mexican hot pocket filled with options like carne asada, chicharrón, shrimp and bean/cheese.

How do you encourage customers’ creativity?

DAVID ESPINOZA: We don’t really have a secret menu, but we pride ourselves on letting guests be creative with our food and customize it to their liking. For instance, some guests like our mole sauce on the enchiladas, or a chile relleno burrito, or the chile verde mixed with chilaquiles. We have many regulars whose order we know before they walk in the door, and we love accommodating to different dietary needs and preferences. It challenges us to try new things on our menu and have a fresh attitude in the kitchen.

Where do you find purpose?

There’s something really rewarding about the customer service aspect, seeing guests enjoy the food and overall experience. I also like the nuts and bolts and the whole process of restaurant work, and enjoy carrying on the family legacy. After working in tech for several years, I felt called back and inspired with an entrepreneurial spirit to be a part of something that means so much to our family and the community.Open daily, 8am-8pm. 1047 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville, 831-536-5292


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