When you see the two-tiered fountain on your left, heading south on Warwick Boulevard through Hilton Village, make a U-turn like José Fuentes did a few years ago. You won’t regret it.
Fuentes, owner of Sí Señor Mexican restaurant, came to the United States from Ojuelos de Jalisco, Mexico, with his parents and 11 older siblings (six brothers and five sisters) to Hemet, California, when he was seven. He learned to cook at home with his stay-at-home mom and his father who worked for a local horse farm. He further honed his culinary skills through high school restaurant courses.
Influenced by both experiences, he began traveling around the states, working in Mexican restaurants.
“I went to Chicago, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama,” Fuentes says. “Then to Georgia to visit a friend who eventually brought me here.”
While he lived in Carrollton and worked at a Mexican restaurant at the Power Plant, Fuentes left home to visit Lowe’s. Instead of heading to the store near his workplace, he headed to the Lowe’s in Newport News.
“I don’t know why I turned on Warwick Boulevard, but I saw this place on my way,” he says of the former Rosalita’s Italian Restaurant in Hilton.
On his return trip home, Fuentes made a U-turn at Main Street after passing Rosalita’s for the second time that day. “I felt a string pulling me back to this place and I think God sent me this way,” he says. The funny thing is he thought it was a Mexican restaurant when in reality it was an Italian eatery.
Fuentes talked to the owner of the salon on one side of the restaurant and to the gas station owner on the other who gave him the contact information for the restaurant’s owner.
“I called him immediately and he told me there was going to be someone to show me there later that day,” Fuentes remembers.
Sí Señor is his first restaurant and opened on February 10, 2020. Business was very good for the remaining 19 days of the month and the first two weeks of March.
“Then, everything came on top of us,” he says of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. “Everybody thought we wouldn’t make it, but the people of Greater Hilton and Hilton Village are the ones who supported me.”
Being a new restaurant, the takeout side of the business was not yet operational, and most diners wanted to come in to check out this latest place. Fuentes says everybody loved it.
After the first shutdown week, business was slow. But the next week was better.
“All of my Hilton people were coming over and saying, ‘We don’t want you to leave. We like you, your place and your food, so we’re going to help you out,’” he says.
Fuentes loves sharing his authentic Mexican food. Just ask him what a customer favorite is. “Carnitas, you better know it,” he answers. “Plus our sopas, huaraches, carne asada and especially my very authentic rice and beans.”
Sí Señor Mexican Restaurant offers a variety of custom salsas (including Jose’s Salsa Habanero), street tacos and its memorable margaritas. Fuentes “customizes” a cucumber and pickled jalapeño margarita, a cactus margarita and more.
“When I prepare margaritas, I make them from the heart,” he says. “I want everybody to love my margaritas and I want to be different from everybody else.”
The restaurant has 15 employees including Fuentes; his wife, Esperanza; and their three teenage daughters, Karol, Kiara and Kamila. Rubén de la Paz is assistant manager.
“We get a lot of people coming in from California,” Fuentes says. “A couple who came in the other day told me this is the closest they could get to California’s Mexican cuisine.”
Sí Señor provides free gift certificates for school fundraisers such as the Hilton Hustle 5K. It offers tax free food for Riverside Regional Medical Center and free chips and salsa for Warwick High School’s prom. It also sponsors a car at Langley Speedway.
“We like to go to Mexico to spend time with our family and to spend time together as a family with our three daughters,” Esperanza says of their leisure activities.
The restaurant is steeped in Mexican culture and food. “We enjoy going there because it’s a casual, convenient location,” Lisa Dieck says. “The food is consistently great and you feel like it’s a neighborhood restaurant.”
“My goal is to grab Sí Señor and put it in everybody’s heart so they will remember me one day for my food,” Fuentes says. “And to remember how good Sí Señor is!”
TO THE POINT:
Sí Señor Mexican Restaurant
Address: 10608 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Jose Fuentes, owner