By Nancy Covert
There’s a colorful, pottery dish that I’ve had in my home for two decades! It’s well on its way to becoming a collector’s item.
The small dish is my still-intact souvenir from the gala Feb. 2, 1993 opening of Mis Tres Amigos, a popular Mexican restaurant in Lakewood—“Ground Hog Day,” says Gilbert Fernandez, manager of Mis Tres Amigos II in Puyallup’s South Hills, who’s also one of three Fernandez sons: Juan, Gilbert and Ramon, that oversee operations at the two popular sites.
During the past 20 years, the restaurant has become a favorite family-style eatery (on a recent Saturday afternoon, two groups of eight (moms, dads and kids) arrived for lunch).
On Feb. 2, 2013 Mis Tres Amigos celebrates its 20th anniversary, and everyone is invited. The menu features Margarita and Mexican Beer specials, cake and “our famous traditional tacos” (made with skirt steak, pork or chorizo filling, grated cheese, sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, onions, vinegar-style jalapenos, and fresh limes, then served inside double corn tortillas)—along with refried beans and Spanish-style rice, and, between 5-7 p.m. that evening there’s also Mariachi music*.
Pride of place inside the Oakbrook Shopping Center’s 92-person eatery, at 8013 D Steilacoom Blvd., S. W., is a framed copy of that long-ago opening day newspaper story. Across from the hostess stand is the restaurant’s first dollar bill, and, my all-time-favorite: the hard-to-miss black and white photo that shows Senor Fernandez, the family patriarch, standing proudly between his sons: father and uncle to the present generation.
Juan says that one of their first customers from 1993 is expected to be there that day.
Ramon Fernandez, (from Cuautla) and his wife, Sylvia, (from Austin, TX) and their sons—“I was only 17!” interjects Gilbert—moved from California to Washington in the late 80s—following a practice established by other Mexican restaurant entrepreneurs, many of whom also came from Cuautla.
“We came during the Labor Day weekend and liked what we saw,” said Mr. Fernandez.
“Most of the NW’s Mexican restaurants trace their roots to Cuautla,” added Gilbert.
During the past three plus decades—at places such as El Toro and Azteca and now Mis Tres—they’ve influenced the palates of their patrons and also introduced them to traditional customs, such as Cinco de Mayo and Dias de los Muertos.
Ten years after Mis Tres opened in Lakewood, a second restaurant—with a seating capacity for 224 patrons—opened on the South Hills.
“It’s twice as much work,” Gilbert grouses, good-naturedly. Plans are underway to mark that milestone in September.
“Come visit us there if you’ve not already done so,” he adds.
Meanwhile, as you enter the Lakewood restaurant’s foyer, look up to your left and notice the brightly colored message—“BIENVENIDOS” it reads.
*To ensure a spot when the band entertains, phone 253-581-2907 to reserve your place.