GAYLORD – Residents and visitors to Gaylord have loved dining at Sugar Bowl Restaurant for over 100 years. Closed since last year, another restaurant now occupies the iconic space on the main street.
Cesar Umbral, a former partner of the former El Rancho in Gaylord, is now the operator of El Patron Grill, a Mexican restaurant. He recognizes the importance of capturing a landmark in the city center.
“It’s good that we have the opportunity to take over the restaurant that has been here forever. We are proud to take this building and reopen it,” he said. “When I came to see the building, I can say it has a lot of potential. I feel the pressure because it’s a Mexican restaurant, but I think diners will come if the food is good.”
Mexican food has become a popular ethnic food in the United States, industry officials say DoorDash Inc., a food delivery service, released its “The State of Flavor in America” report last year. which included order data from January 1, 2019 to October. December 31, 2020, and a national consumer survey of 1,000 Americans. The top cuisines ordered in 2020 were Mexican, Chinese, and Tex-Mex, a spinoff from Mexican cuisine.
Umbral thinks the downtown location is a plus.
“The downtown area is nice and this building is very special. We take pride in being in this building and offering authentic Mexican food, which means we cook it every day – from scratch,” said Umbral.
For example, Umbral said he does not use canned beans and imports his avocados from Mexico.
“It’s a family run restaurant but different from most Mexican restaurants. We care a lot about quality,” he added.
He did some renovations inside – stones were added to some of the walls and the bar now has a granite top. Still, it has retained some of the charm of the old Sugar Bowl.
Helen Shryock, who worked at the Sugar Bowl for over 30 years starting in 1972, helps Umbral open the restaurant.
“We have had a lot of Sugar Bowl customers since we opened in October,” said Shryock. “They all love it. We had a couple who were long time Sugar Bowl customers who came three times in a week.”
Shryock said it was difficult to see the Sugar Bowl close after the first lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic ended in 2020.
“When I was driving at night and saw it closed, it was heartbreaking for me,” she said.
Shryock said the original owners of the Sugar Bowl were George and Harry Doumas. George had two sons, Robert and Sam, who bought the business after George and Harry passed away.
Shryock said Sam decided to do something else and was bought out by Robert, who operated the Sugar Bowl for about 50 years.
Umbral started in the restaurant business 11 years ago as a diver and rose through the ranks. He admitted that, like other small businesses, recruiting and retaining employees has been a challenge.
“It was difficult to find a bartender. Now we have two in the area,” he said.
Margaritas are considered a staple for Mexican restaurants. Umbral said that El Patron offers several different flavors such as strawberry and watermelon in addition to the classic lime version.