Business SpotlightJuly 2011
“Hi mom! How you doing!?” is how many young people greet Gladi Ortiz when they walk into El Sabroso restaurant at 414 Central Avenue. Gladi and her sister Martha founded El Sabroso together in 1994 and since then they have turned it into one of Jersey City’s premier and most beloved Latin American restaurants. For many it is a home away from home where “El Cliente es el corazon de nuestro negocio” (the customer is the heart of our business). Perhaps unsurprisingly, after seventeen years the sisters count many customers as old friends.
For many years friends and family members encouraged Gladi and Martha to open a restaurant because of their phenomenal cooking. Eventually they obliged and opened El Sabroso in a modest storefront just off Central Avenue at 2 Lincoln Street. The store itself wasn’t much more than a 20x20 kitchen with a countertop, three stools and two tables but their special take on traditional Latin American cuisine with a twist hit home and for fifteen years they built a base of loyal and loving customers. Soon enough, lines out the door became commonplace as the good word spread about El Sabroso.
In 2008, Gladi and Martha decided it was time for El Sabroso to grow and began looking for a larger location that would allow them to stay in the neighborhood. Soon enough they found exactly what they were looking for and, after extensive renovations, the new El Sabroso opened in early 2009. “Everyone was here,” Gladi says with a smile. Mayor Healy officiated the ribbon cutting and friends, neighbors and customers came to see and taste the new El Sabroso for the first time.
One would never mistake the new El Sabroso for their previous location. The new restaurant comfortably seats dozens and Gladi and Martha now share the El Sabroso experience with more people than ever. The spacious, high-ceilinged and immaculately maintained dining area is perfect for parties of all sizes and ages. From the lovely woodcarved sign out front to the intricate floor tiling, El Sabroso is a welcoming environment with a relaxing atmosphere. These days El Sabroso is serving more people than ever--“The weekends are crazy”, says Gladi--but their commitment to a comfortable, family-oriented, familyrun restaurant remains paramount. The restaurant has great specials every day to go along with mouth watering classic Latin dishes that keep people coming back over and over again. Word of mouth still brings new faces through the door daily and many folks who moved away return regularly for what they know will be a splendid and satisfying meal.
During the interview three young men walked in and warmly hugged Gladi. “They’re like my kids”, she says. She chatted with them while they waited and it became clear that El Sabroso is more than just a restaurant and that Gladi and Martha are more than restauranteurs. These sisters have become pillars of the community whose warmth, generosity and amazing food are the roots of strong Central Avenue community that is lucky and glad to have them.