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Check your 'jalapeño scale' level at Javi's

Javier Montanez's family opened its first restaurant, Javi's Turlock Mexican Restaurant, in 1987 with two goals: expanding the operation to neighboring cities and keeping it in the family.

He's been successful at both, now owning four restaurants — including his showcase eatery in Modesto, which features a glass atrium, renovated bar and open floor plan — with 10 family members working in the business.

"We kept an eye out for opportunities, and when we saw them, we took advantage of them," said Montanez, who opened three restaurants in a three-year span beginning in December 1998.

"Remaining a family-run business is important because it allows us to better maintain the quality."

Making quality control a priority helps explain how Javi's offers such an expansive menu — 33 combination plates, as well as a dozen seafood platters — that is laden with fresh peppers, tomatoes, garnishes and spices.

"We have a photo of every item on our menu so people see what they're getting," said Montanez, whose combination plates include rice and beans as well as chips and salsa.

The menu has Javi's "jalapeño scale," with two peppers indicating extra spiciness.

The Oakdale eatery expanded a year ago to include a spacious bar, and the tables there have made it a popular alternative for diners.