Juan Guzman trades in construction to run Mexican restaurants
WINDSOR – Juan Guzman has lived in the United States for nearly 35 years and is an immigrant from Mexico.
He found a career in the construction industry and started his own business 25 years ago, building homes across the region.
About two and a half years ago, Guzman decided to pursue a new venture, getting into the restaurant business. Huasteca, an authentic Mexican restaurant, opened on Day Hill Road, and Frida in West Hartford.
“Someone gave me the opportunity and I bought it,” said Guzman, who still runs his own construction business as well as the restaurant, and currently works in an apartment complex not far from the restaurant.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said.
Not only did opening a new restaurant take a lot of work, it also led to unexpected twists when the COVID-19 pandemic closed Huasteca almost immediately.
“I lost a lot of money,” Guzman said. “Not many people came to the restaurant because of COVID. I have to pay the bills, whatever it is.”
Despite the problems, the business has recovered, he said, and is still growing, serving food in a brightly lit area with murals of the restaurant’s name and beachside graffiti painted by local artists.
Guzman said he doesn’t expect identical menus at Huasteca and Frida, because it allows chefs at each location the freedom to create their own recipes, presenting their own unique tastes.
At Huasteca, he said, popular dishes include fajitas, which come with roasted peppers, onions, and black or black beans, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, and served with warm tortillas and a choice of chicken or steak.
There are also tacos, made with corn-soaked tortillas, shredded beef, cheese, cilantro, onions, mild green salsa, and konkomi, topped with pickled red onions and radishes; shredded chicken, ground beef, or shredded burritos with tortilla flour, rice, fried beans, roga sauce, melted cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and guacamole; carnitas guerrero, slow-cooked marinated pork, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, and flour flakes; Mixed ceviche, white fish, shrimp, octopus, spices, lemon, onion, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, tostada.
Guzman suggests that people who are new to huastica try fajitas or carnitas.
Berenice Joaquin, server at Huastica, said her favorite dish is the grilled Huastica burrito, which comes with rice, pinto beans, green tomatillo sauce, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese.
“I like spicy food,” she said. “It’s really good.”
Huasteca also offers a happy hour menu with discounted wings, taquitos, and quesadillas, plus $10 wine and margaritas, and $3.50 worth of beer.
Guzman said he doesn’t plan on Huasteca being a long-term business for himself.
“I might sell the place in two years,” he said.
But he wants to improve sales first, then sell to someone who wants to take over a successful restaurant.