WHEATLAND – In the midst of a COVID-racked nation, Mario Ibarra, who is exactly half a century old, wears a smile that makes his eyes light up and he stays positive for his family and customers at Guadalajara restaurant in Wheatland. One of only a few true Mexican restaurants which cook authentic south of the border food.
Ibarra was born in Guadalajara but moved with his family to a smaller town about 90 minutes south called Tapalpa which is in Jalisco, a state of central-western Mexico. When he came to Wheatland, he commented that it reminded him of living on a ranch as a boy.
“My house looked like a zoo,” Ibarra said. “We had ducks, chickens, lambs, goats, horses, dairy cows, pigs and even a couple of deer at one time. We also had about 250 beehives that we would rent out for the plantations. We would deliver them during their season of pollination and just keep moving them.”
The family were also cheesemakers, so perhaps you could say that they were not Wisconsin cheese-heads, but Mexican cheese-heads.
“I was a third-generation cheesemaker,” Ibarra said. “We always had a business and plenty of work.”
The family which consisted of hard-working parents and five brothers and two sisters had many businesses originate from the 60-plus acre ranch. They had their hand in many business ventures such as the cheesemaking, breeding and selling bulls and cows and growing and selling produce and wheat.
At least one or more of Ibarra’s family has been a part of the United States since the 1920s. His grandfather was one of the first to relocate here and moved to Castle Rock, Colorado. From there he made moves to Kansas and then to Chicago where he worked for the railroad. Today, 90% of Ibarra’s family has relocated to the United States. Ibarra relocated in 1986.
“I wanted to see the world,” Ibarra said. “Because I had never seen anything outside my own town. I lived in L.A. for a while and I hated it. Too many people. I then moved to Washington state.
In Washington, the man with so much experience in so many different areas took a job insulating houses, worked construction and was a cook in a restaurant. He combined both of those talents as he and his brothers not only remodeled and constructed restaurants, but while he was on a project, he would take a second job cooking in the restaurant.
Word-of-mouth promoted the brothers to success in not only their fine construction, but word also got about how Ibarra could cook. It was his passion to be cooking his native cuisine. It was also his key to owning his own restaurant.
His success story teaches about hard work, overachieving and never giving up on your dreams. He is a man who describes himself as always moving and driven to accomplish.
“That was my father’s way,” he said. “And now, the same with my kids. They are here working now and they are constantly moving too.”
As for how he got to Platte County, he found it as many do. Just traveling through and falling in love with the lifestyle, the pace and the beauty.
“I was traveling in 1989 and I passed through here and liked the town,” Ibarra said. “It brought back memories of home. I was working in Casper and they offered me the opportunity to come and be an owner and I said, ‘yes, I’ll take it.’ And now I am one of the owners.”
At the time Ibarra came to take over the restaurant in Wheatland, it was closed and the first order of business was to do some remodeling and change the atmosphere. After remodeling the building, Mario and his other co-owners opened for business Dec. 9, 2014.
“Those first few years were a little rough, but now, the community has taken us in as one of their own, and I am very happy here,” Ibarra said. “And right now I have a very good chef in Ruben Aguilera. I help him out and cook when I have to cook. I do everything pretty much.”
His main talent though is the interaction with his clientele both new and the regular loyal customer base.
“Mainly I like to be out here on the floor,” Ibarra said with his smiling eyes. “It’s what I do and I enjoy it. The words of my mother and my father were important. They said, ‘we don’t care what you do, if you are sweeping a street or if you are building a new castle, do what you have to do, but my father’s motto was ‘do it right, do it once.’”
Ibarra is doing it right at Guadalajara restaurant and with a loaded menu, you can pretty much get whatever your taste buds dictate. And, if you are untrained in authentic Mexican cuisine, he is on the floor, educating people as to what is good and recommending food that fits their palate. He can also recommend the preferred drink of the day that will be a perfect pairing to your meal.
The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. with the exception of Friday and Saturday where they are open until 10 p.m. Their Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
For more information and to view the full menu, you can visit them at: https://www.guadalajaramexicanrestaurants.com/wheatland or you can call (307) 322-9900