By Melody Birkett | June 25, 2021
To call Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant in Mesa a family affair is an understatement.
Six family members have owned and operated the restaurant near Baseline and Ellsworth in Mesa since July 5, 2018.
“We’ve been in the restaurant industry for a very long time,” says Violeta Cortez, who owns Sol Azteca with her sister Berenice Cortez, brothers Alexander Cortez and Eduardo Cortez, husband Ivan Garrido and sister-in-law Crucita Olmos.
“We just decided to open one ourselves.”
Violeta and her husband used to be general managers for big corporations and her brothers were chefs for various Mexican grill concepts.
The name reflects the family members’ various origins in Mexico.
“’Azteca’ made sense since they’re the indigenous people of Mexico,” Violeta explains. “’Sol’ is basically the sun which is something that shines. So we wanted to stick out as a restaurant that shines.”
Violeta describes the restaurant “as full-service food with a casual dining experience.”
“We wanted to bring good, quality food, fresh ingredients at an affordable price at a speedier way,” she continues.
“We have all kinds of entrees you’d get at a full-service restaurant,” she adds.
That includes molcajetito (a heated cast iron bowl filled with carne asada, chicken, chorizo and cactus) — “which is one of our best sellers – as well as trio enchiladas, Pollo Especial, chile rellenos — “stuff that takes a lot of time to cook and a lot of skill.”
Everything is made in-house.
“Nothing that comes out of a can is ever served in our restaurant,” explains Violeta. “Everything is made fresh from the beans to the filleted and marinated meat to the rice and all of our sauces. Everything is made in house, fresh, every day.”
While competition is strong among Mexican restaurants, Violeta says, “What sets us apart is the casual dining environment that we provide.”
“We provide good service at the table because it’s half and half. … Yes, people do order at the counter but we do bus tables and pick up plates. We’re on top of guest satisfaction.”
Another secret to their success, Violeta says, is “having faith in and loving what we do.”
“We go to work and cook with passion. When you do all of those things, people see it. It shows not only in the service we give but in the food people eat.
“When people notice they’re getting good service at a good value in a good environment and good food with high-quality ingredients, they’re going to come back. They’re going to choose us over others because we care about the food we serve on a plate, about the guest who walks through the door.”
Violeta says the family is grateful for the community support they received during the pandemic — including the locals at Augusta Ranch.
“We can’t thank them enough. They kept us going. They kept our employees going. They kept the jobs going.”
During that time, the owners did not lay off any employees even though Violeta says, “we did hit rock bottom for a couple of months in the beginning of the pandemic.”
She says they kept “employees because they needed a job and didn’t want them to suffer the loss of an income.”
The restaurant does plan to open a second location in the East Valley this year.
Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant
9265 E. Baseline Road, Mesa