Modesto doesn’t exactly have a shortage of Mexican food. But then, Modesto has never had a Tesoro either.
The fine Mexican restaurant opened its second location on Tully Road in Modesto in April. The first, on Lander Avenue in Turlock, opened three years ago. Husband-and-wife owners Greg and Angelica Valdez of Ceres also simultaneously launched a food truck in Oakdale.
The restaurant’s name, Spanish for “treasure,” speaks to the couple’s attention to detail. Like its Turlock location, Tesoro prides itself on its scratch-made food and presentation. That includes the look of the restaurant, which is anything but your standard taqueria. The walls are covered in rustic, barn-wood siding and decorated with vintage tools and cookware. Small potted succulents greet diners on each table. And the food, well, it comes out looking pretty nice as well. Most dishes are served with carved garnishes and other flair.
“When you go to a restaurant you want an experience,” said Greg Valdez. “I can go anywhere for a taco.”
Most of the dishes come from his wife, who grew up in the Jalisco, a state on the western coast of Mexico. The mix of old family recipes and new, and feature her signature Jalisco sauce. While the exact recipe for the spicy sauce is one of those “I’d tell you, but then I have to kill you” secrets, it blends chilis with a hint of lime. The restaurant serves it on its popular dishes like Par de Tesoro (a breaded chicken cutlet topped with shrimp). Besides popular traditional dishes like enchiladas, carnitas and fajitas, Tesoro features several seafood-based dishes and more unique options like Molcajete, meat and vegetables served sizzling in a stone mortar and pestle bowl.
The couple first opened their Turlock location as the fulfillment of a longtime dream of Angelica Valdez to own her own restaurant. Before that she had worked for 17 years as a manager for El Jardin in Manteca. After opening the Turlock spot they had regular customers from Modesto tell them they needed to open a place closer to home. Greg Valdez spotted the Tully Road location, the spot of previous Mexican restaurants and an old KFC fast-food franchise, while driving by one day.
They got the building in January and spent three months renovating the space. The old drive-thru from the KFC days was walled over, the new siding added and other improvements. Greg Valdez, who has a background in construction and runs his own heating and air conditioning company, did most of the work himself.
The Modesto site is slightly smaller than the Turlock place, seating about 80 versus its 110. Both are open for lunch and dinner and have the same menu, and the Modesto restaurant will have its full liquor license by September. It currently serves beer and wine. And they have live mariachi music the second Thursday of each month. The restaurant opened with 18 employees and is currently looking for more cooks.
The Tesoro Taco Truck launched around the same time in Oakdale, co-owned by the couple and Angelica’s brother. They had the trailer custom-built in Oregon and it now sits at its permanent location at 7450 River Road in Oakdale. It serves a more limited, on-the-go friendly menu of tacos, burritos, chicken wings and hamburgers. It also does catering.
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Speaking of that no shortage of Mexican restaurants in Modesto, Tesoro joins a handful of other eateries have opened in the region this year.