With pandemic-era odds stacked against him, Jose Castillo opened his first restaurant in January 2021 in Astoria. Fourteen months later, he’s doubling down, opening his second Ruta Oaxaca on Main Street in Patchogue.
The incoming restaurant fills the vacancy Swell Taco left at 30 E. Main St. when it closed last September after five years in business. While Swell Taco offered Cali-style vibes and tacos, Ruta Oaxaca cooks up authentic Mexican cuisine.
“It comes from grandma, cooking moles (a traditional sauce and marinade) back in Oaxaca,” Castillo said of his restaurant’s recipes. “And from my two chefs, chef Filipe [Arellano] and chef Carlos Arellano, they’re brothers, raised and born in Oaxaca, and they’ve been working at high end Mexican restaurants in the city.”
Castillo said his and his chef’s faith in their cooking inspired him to open a restaurant despite trying times for the industry.
“They have the passion to cook everything and make it feel gourmet,” he added. “We love what we do, and seeing our people leave happy is the most important thing for us.”
Tacos, fresh fish and baby back ribs
Those who miss ordering tacos from Swell Taco can now get their fix at Castillo’s joint.
“Everything is going to be a home run, but I think the tacos, especially the cochinita pibil and the New York strip steak tacos, are going to be home runs,” Castillo said.
The restaurant’s menu goes far beyond tacos, allowing diners to travel south through Mexico, as the eatery’sname — meaning en route to Oaxaca — implies.
Its appetizer menu includes fresh guacamole, chicken bunuelo and chori queso — all served with house-made corn tortillas.
Castillo anticipates the eatery’s grilled seabass, enchiladas verde and New York strip will be local favorites. However, they will be second to perhaps his most popular menu item: the costilla istmenas.
“The baby back ribs cooked for three-and-a-half hours, they fall off the bone,” he said. “They’re super tender and delicious. People who like ribs say that it’s the best thing they ever had.”
Brunch and drink specials
Castillo said the new Mexican eatery will be open seven days a week and serve brunch specials daily from noon-4 p.m. The restaurant also offers happy hour bar specials Monday through Friday, from 4-7 p.m., and two-for-one margaritas on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon-4 p.m.
While the restaurant’s interior is decked out with traditional artwork, Castillo said he is still tinkering with the restaurant’s rear outdoor patio. Among other features, he plans to add seating and paint a colorful mural in time for “a crazy Cinco De Mayo party.”
“You’re on vacation when you come here,” he said of his vision for the outdoor space.